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General view of Flossenbürg, April 23th, 1945, the day of its liberation.
Location: Germany, near Bayreuth Established on: 1938 Liberation: April 23th, 1945, by the 2nd U.S. Cavalry. Estimated number of victims: 73,000 Sub-camps: 93 sub-camps and external kommandos
After Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen, Flossenbürg was the fourth concentration camp established in Germany by the Nazis. It was in a small village located in a beautiful area, with many forests and mountains, not far from Weiden. This location was chosen by Himmler in May 1938.
German civilians forced to visit the concentration camp of Flossenburg.
The first prisoners arrived in Flossenbürg during Spring 1938. On September 1, 1939, while the German Army was invading Poland, the concentration camp of Dachau was partially evacuated in order to be used as a training center for the future SS extermination squads. 981 prisoners from Dachau were transferred to Flossenbürg. Due to the increasing number of prisoners, the camp was constantly being transformed, and on April 5, 1940, the first convoy of foreign prisoners arrived in Flossenbürg.
Living conditions in Flossenbürg were extremely hard. The SS administration itself considered Flossenbürg as a "Hard Regime" concentration camp. Most of the prisoners had to work in the stone quarries. The malnutrition, the total lack of hygiene and medical care, and the brutality of the SS guards were the main causes of the death of thousands of prisoners in Flossenbürg as well as in its sub-camps.
The SS wrote a last insult on the chest of a victim: "polak" (insult used by the SS for the Polish prisoners)
The prisoners in Flossenbürg were housed in 16 huge wooden barracks. The camp also had a kitchen, an infirmary ("Revier"), a laundry, and a disinfecting house. There were crematories and an execution place located just beside the crematories for "practical reasons" – (dixit) according to the SS. The whole camp was surrounded by an electrified barbed wire fence and watch towers. Two of those watch towers still remain today.
The original camp was established in 1938 for 1,600 prisoners. Some months later, the camp was transformed in order to house 3,000 prisoners. Eventually, more than 111,000 prisoners were incarcerated in Flossenbürg and its sub-camps - 95,400 men and 16,000 women. It is estimated that 73,000 prisoners died.
Portrait of Albert A. Salt, officer in the 2nd Calvary and liberator of Flossenbürg.
The portrait is signed "Flossenbürg, April 29th, 1945, F. Van Horen".
Please read the testimony of F. Van Horen, Belgian survivor of Esterwegen and
Flossenbürg concentration camps: "How a Drawing Saved my Life".
(Many thanks to Alger A. Salt for allowing us to place this portrait on this site.)
The camp was liberated on April 23, 1945 by the 2nd U.S. Calvary. There were only some hundreds of ill and weak prisoners left. The other prisoners--more than 14,000 men and women--were forced by the SS to leave the camp in a Death March some days before the Allied troops arrived. Three days after the liberation of the main camp, a U.S. unit retrieved the survivors of this Death March. All of them were in pitiful condition, and in only three days, more than 4,000 prisoners died of weakness or starvation, or killed by the SS.
Note sent by Albert A. Salt to his niece.
The note contains a brief description of the portrait (see previous image):
"2/10/79 Sketched by a political prisoner the same day we liberated a Nazi concentration camp (Flossenbürg). Hadn't had any sleep for 24 or 30 hours and after having seen 200 or more dead bodies that the S.S. troops didn't have time to incinerate. The prisoners were dying at about 50 - 75 a day when we first arrived. We had the job of incinerating the dead and trying to feed the living. I still have a feeling of sickness whenever I smell flesh burning. They [the SS] liked prisoners with tattoos because they made lampshades out of their skin.
Happy Valentines Day!
Pre–World War II
Before World War II, Flossenbürg was a men's camp primarily for "antisocial" or "criminal" prisoners. The camp's site was chosen so that the inmates could be used as unpaid labor to quarry the granite found in the nearby hills. The quarries belonged to the SS-owned and -operated German Earth and Stone Works (DEST) company.During World War II
During World War II, most of the inmates sent to Flossenbürg, or to one of about 100 sub-camps, came from the German-occupied eastern territories. The inmates in Flossenbürg were housed in 16 huge wooden barracks, its crematorium was built in a valley straight outside the camp. In September 1939, the SS transferred 1,000 political prisoners to Flossenbürg fromDachau.
In 1941 to 1942, about 1,500 Polish prisoners, mostly members of the Polish resistance, were deported to Flossenbürg. In July 1941, SS guards shot 40 Polish prisoners at the SS firing range outside the Flossenbürg concentration camp. Between February and September 1941 the SS executed about one-third of the Polish political prisoners deported to Flossenbürg.
During World War II, the German army turned tens of thousands of Soviet prisoners over to the SS for execution. More than 1,000 Soviet prisoners of war were executed in Flossenbürg by the end of 1941. The SS also established a special camp for a load of Soviet prisoners of war within Flossenbürg. Executions of Soviet prisoners of war continued sporadically through 1944. Soviet prisoners of war in Mülsen St. Micheln, a subcamp of Flossenbürg, staged an uprising and mass escape attempt on 1 May 1944. They set their bunks on fire and killed some of the camp's Kapos, prisoner trustees who carried out SS orders. SS guards crushed the revolt and none of the prisoners escaped. Almost 200 prisoners died from burns and wounds sustained in the uprising. The SS transferred about 40 leaders of the revolt to Flossenbürg itself, where they were later executed in the camp jail.
There were over 4,000 prisoners in the main camp of Flossenbürg in February 1943. More than half of these prisoners were political prisoners (mainly Soviet, Czech, Dutch, andGerman). Almost 800 were German criminals, more than 100 were homosexuals, and 7 wereJehovah's Witnesses.
During the war, prisoner forced labor became increasingly important in German arms production. As a result, the Flossenbürg camp system expanded to include approximately 100 subcamps concentrated mainly around armaments industries in southern Germany and western Czechoslovakia.
On 1 September 1944, Flossenbürg became a training camp for extremely large numbers of female guards (Aufseherinnen) who were recruited by force from factories all over Germany and Poland. All together, over 500 women were trained in the camp and in time went on to its subcamps. Women matrons staffed the Flossenbürg subcamps, such as Dresden Ilke Werke, Freiberg, Helmbrechts, Holleischen, Leitmeritz, Mehltheuer, Neustadt (near Coburg),Nürnberg-Siemens, Oederan, and Zwodau, and it is known that six SS women (SS-Helferinnenkorps) staffed the Gundelsdorf subcamp in Czechoslovakia.
By 1945, there were almost 40,000 inmates held in the whole Flossenbürg camp system, including almost 11,000 women. Inmates were made to work in the Flossenbürg camp quarry and in armaments making. Underfeeding, sickness, and overwork was rife among the inmates, and with the harshness of the guards, this treatment killed thousands of inmates.
It is estimated that between April 1944 and April 1945, more than 1500 death sentences were carried out there. To this end, six new gallows hooks were installed. In the last months the rate of daily executions overtook the capacity of the crematorium. As a solution, the SS began stacking the bodies in piles, drenching them with gasoline, and setting them alight. Incarcerated in what was called the "Bunker," those who had been condemned to death were kept alone in dark rooms with no food for days until they were executed.
Amongst the Allied military officers executed at Flossenbürg were Special Operations Executive(SOE) agent Gustave Daniel Alfred Biéler (executed 6 September 1944). As Germany's defeat loomed, a number of the SOE agents whom the SS had tortured repeatedly in order to extract information, were executed on the same day. On 29 March 1945 13 SOE agents were hanged, including Jack Charles Stanmore Agazarian and Brian Rafferty. Together with his deputy GeneralHans Oster, military jurist General Karl Sack, theologian Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Ludwig Gehre, Wilhelm Canaris was humiliated before witnesses and then executed on April 9, 1945. At the time of his execution, Canaris had been decorated with the Iron Cross First and Second Class, the Silver German Cross, the Cross of Honor and the Wehrmacht's Twelve and Twenty-Five Year Long-Service Ribbons. On 1 August 2007 a memorial was unveiled at Flossenbürg to their memory.
Crematorium at Flossenbuerg
General view of Flossenbürg concentration camp after liberation in April 1945 "Food transport (Essenträgers)" – drawing by Stefan Kryszczak "In front of block 23"- drawing by Stefan Kryszczak Father Lelere testifies at the trial of former camp personnel on 21 June 1946 Crematorium at Flossenbuerg The title of this article contains the character ü. Where it is unavailable or not desired, the name may be represented as Flossenbuerg.
Konzentrationslager Flossenbürg was a Nazi concentration camp built in May 1938 by theSchutzstaffel (SS) Economic-Administrative Main Office at Flossenbürg, in the Oberpfalzregion of Bavaria, Germany, near the border with Czechoslovakia. Until its liberation in April 1945, more than 96,000 prisoners passed through the camp. About 30,000 died there.
Death march and liberation
In early April 1945, as American forces were approaching the camp, the SS executed General Hans Oster, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Rev. Dr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dr. Karl Sack, Dr. Theodor Strünck and General Friedrich von Rabenau, who were involved in the July 20, 1944 assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler, along with the French Resistance worker Simone Michel-Lévy, who had managed to organize an uprising in the camp. On 20 April 1945, they began the forced evacuation of 22,000 inmates, including 1,700 Jews, leaving behind only those too sick to walk. On the death march to the Dachau concentration camp, SS guards shot any inmate too sick to keep up. Before they reached Dachau, more than 7,000 inmates had been shot or had collapsed and died.
By the time the U.S. Army freed the camp on April 23, 1945, more than 30,000 inmates had died at Flossenbürg. Troops from the 90th Infantry Division and the 97th Infantry Division found about 1,600 ill and weak prisoners, mostly in the camp's hospital barracks.
May 3, 1938
SS authorities establish the Flossenbürg concentration camp in the mountains of upper Bavaria near the prewar border with Czechoslovakia. Initially, the SS and Police incarcerate only men in Flossenbürg, primarily so-called "asocial" or "criminal" prisoners. The SS deploys the prisoners as forced laborers in construction of the camp and in the nearby stone quarries of the SS-owned and -operated German Earth and Stone Works company.
September 27, 1939
The SS transfers 1,000 political prisoners from Dachau to Flossenbürg. Having been given authorization to form military units in the SS (later called the Waffen-SS), SS leaders temporarily close down the Dachau concentration camp to make space for a military training facility, transferring the prisoners temporarily to other concentration camps (Buchenwald, Mauthausen, and Flossenbürg).
July 2, 1941
SS guards shoot 40 Polish prisoners at the SS firing range outside Flossenbürg concentration camp. Some 1,500 Polish political prisoners, many of them members of the Polish underground resistance, arrive in Flossenbürg in 1941-1942. Between February and September 1941 the SS kill about one-third of these Polish political prisoners.
Camp authorities establish a special compound in Flossenbürg to hold approximately 2,000 Soviet prisoners of war. By the end of 1941, SS personnel has shot more than 1,000 Soviet prisoners of war in Flossenbürg. The SS continues to kill Soviet prisoners of war sporadically through 1944.
February 8, 1943
Flossenbürg camp officials reported that there are more than 4,000 prisoners in the main camp. Of these, more than half are political prisoners (mainly Soviet, Czech, Polish, Dutch, and German); almost 800 are Germans identified as repeat criminal offenders; more than 100 are homosexuals; and seven areJehovah's Witnesses. In 1943, prisoner forced labor becomes increasingly important in German arms production. As a result, the Flossenbürg camp system expands to include approximately 100 subcamps concentrated mainly around armaments industries in southern Germany and western Czechoslovakia.
May 1, 1944
Soviet prisoners of war in Muelsen St. Micheln, a subcamp of Flossenbürg, rise against their guards in the attempt to escape. They torch their barracks and kill some of the prisoner work supervisors (kapos). The SS crushes the revolt, preventing the escape of the prisoners. Almost 200 prisoners die as a result of burns and wounds sustained in the uprising. After Gestapo officials investigate, the SS transfers about 40 prisoners whom they identify as leaders of the revolt to Flossenbürg, where SS personnel later murder them in the camp jail.
January 15, 1945
SS authorities report nearly 40,000 prisoners incarcerated in the Flossenbürg camp system, including almost 11,000 women.
April 9, 1945
In Flossenbürg, SS personnel hang Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, General Hans Oster, Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and other persons associated with German resistance groups or implicated in the July 1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler. Canaris was the chief of military intelligence, Oster was Canaris's deputy, and Bonhoeffer was a Protestant theologian critical of the Nazis whom Oster recruited for the Abwehr after the invasion of Poland in 1939. The Gestapo had arrested Bonhoeffer and Oster in April 1943, and incarcerated Canaris in the aftermath of the failed attempt to kill Hitler in July 1944.
April 15-20, 1945
As U.S. forces approach, the SS organizes the forced evacuation of prisoners, except those unable to walk, from Flossenbürg. The SS moves most of the remaining 9,300 prisoners in the main camp, among them approximately 1,700 Jews, in the direction of Dachau both on foot and by train. 7,000 more prisoners who had just arrived from Buchenwald join the evacuation. Perhaps 7,000 prisoners of a total of more than 16,000 who began the evacuation die en route,
April 23, 1945
U.S. forces liberate Flossenbürg, finding about 1,600 ill and weak prisoners mostly in the infirmary barracks. Between 1938 and 1945, nearly 97,000 prisoners passed through Flossenbürg. About 30,000 died in Flossenbürg, in its subcamps, and during the evacuations.
Camp Commander~Karl Fritzsch
(July 10, 1903 - May 2, 1945?),
Karl Fritzsch was born the son of a stove builder in Bohemia, and since the family had to move very often in search of work, he never received a normal school education. For some years Fritzsch worked on ships plying the Danube. His marriage in 1928 to Franzishe Stich produced three children, but ended in divorce in 1942.
In May 1940 he became the first Schutzhaftlagerführer (Deputy Commander) to Rudolf Höss at Auschwitz. Here, he very quickly obtained a reputation as the camp horror. Together with Höss, he was responsible for the selection of prisoners to die of hunger as a punishment for the escape of a fellow prisoner. The condemned prisoners were locked in a cell in the basement of the Bunker (the camp prison in Block 11 or 13) until they died of starvation.
On 29 July 1941, a camp count found that three prisoners were missing and Fritzsch sentenced 10 remaining prisoners to immurement. One of the condemned, Franciszek Gajowniczek, was reprieved when a fellow prisoner, the Franciscan priest Maximilian Kolbe, offered to take his place. After over 2 weeks starvation, only Kolbe remained alive and the priest was killed in the underground bunker by lethal injection. Kolbe was later canonized by Pope John Paul II.
Fritzsch was also fond of psychological torture. Former Auschwitz prisoner Karol ?wi?torzecki recalled the first Christmas Eve behind the camp barbed wire, on December 24, 1940, was also one of the most tragic. "The Nazis set up a Christmas tree, with electric lights, on the roll-call square. Beneath it, they placed the bodies of prisoners who had died while working or frozen to death at roll call. Lagerführer Karl Fritzsch referred to the corpses beneath the tree as “a present” for the living, and forbade the singing of Polish Christmas carols." According to Höss, it was also Fritzsch who first arrived at the idea of using Zyklon B gas for the purpose of mass murder. While Höss was away on an official journey in late August 1941, Fritzsch tried out the effect of Zyklon B on Soviet POWs, who were locked up in cells in the basement of the Bunker for this experiment. In the following days Fritzsch repeated the tests with the gas on further victims in the presence of Höss. Thus the future method for the mass murders in Auschwitz was devised.
On 15 January 1942, Fritzsch was transferred to KZ Flossenbürg as Schutzhaftlagerführer. From early August until October 1942 he was temporary substitute commander of the camp. In October 1943, he was arrested as a part of an internal SS investigation into corruption. An SS court charged him with murder. As a punishment he was transferred to front line duty (SS-Panzergrenadier-Ersatzbatallion 18).Disappearance
It is commonly stated that he perished in the Battle for Berlin but his final fate remains unknown. Soviet sources claim that MI-6 caught him in Norway, after that, his final fate remains unknown.
- July 10, 1903 - May 2, 1945?
Camp Commander~Egon Zill
The son of a brewer from Plauen, Zill's father was severely injured in the First World War and as such Zill was apprenticed to a baker at an early age in order to bring in much needed money to the family. As a 17 year old Zill enlisted in both the Nazi Party and the Sturmabteilung, switching to the SS as soon as it came to his hometown (in fact Zill was the 535 member of the SS nationally). Zill would later work as a security guard in a curtain factory and it was not until 1934 that he became a full-time SS man, serving as a guard at a minor concentration camp at Chemnitz.
From this low beginning Zill began to rise through the ranks at the camps. His first appointment at a major camp was at Lichtenburg where he, along with fellow future commandant Arthur Rödl, guarded the camp borders. He moved between camps, seeing service at Dachau,Ravensbrück and Hinzert in various capacities. His first commandant role was at Natzweiler-Struthof before taking charge at Flossenbürg.As a commandant Zill expected his guards to act with the discipline of soldiers whilst also supporting the idea that camp inmates who had been indoctrinated into Nazism should be allowed to fight for Nazi Germany in return for their freedom. His regime as a commandant was also marked by extreme cruelty and according to the testimonies of inmates Zill's crimes included tying prisoners to trees before allowing his dogs to savage their genitalia. Zill was replaced in April 1943 by Max Kögel after being judged ineffective as a commandant. The move followed letters of complaint to Fritz Sauckel from the villagers about the high standards of living enjoyed by camp guards and their wives in contrast to the impoverished standards in the village, as well as a culture of corruption amongst the guards. He was transferred to theEastern Front in 1943.
Nicknamed 'little Zill' because of his short stature he went to ground after the Second World War but revealed himself when he put his real name on the birth certificate of an illegitimate child. Sentenced to life imprisonment by a Munich court the sentence was reduced on appeal to fifteen years in 1955. Following his release Zill settled in Dachau where he died in 1974.
Egon Zill also served at Dachau, Ravensbruck, Natzweiler and Flossenburg
- 28 March 1906~ 23 October 1974 i
Camp Commander Max Koegel
Otto Max Koegel
Max Koegel was born on October 16, 1895 in Füssen, in the Kingdom of Bavaria. He was the fourth son of a carpenter who worked at a local furniture factory. Shortly before his sixth birthday, Koegel's mother died from complications during a childbirth. In 1907, his father also died and Max was sent to live with a family at nearby farm. He also had to leave school and began training as a shepherd and later worked as a mountain guide.
When the First World War broke out, Koegel volunteered to join the Bavarian infantry. He served in the military until January 12, 1919 and reached the rank of corporal. He was wounded three times, including once during the Battle of Verdun, and received the Iron Cross second class.
After the war, Koegel returned to Bavaria and worked as a customs clerk inGarmisch-Partenkirchen. In 1920, he left civil service and opened a souvenir shop. However, four years later he filed for bankruptcy after he was charged with fraud, for which he received a suspended sentence. He went on to travel for work inSwitzerland and Austria before returning to Füssen, where he got job in his father's old furniture factory. At that time, he joined the Völkischer Bund and Bund Oberland, both extreme nationalist and anti-Semitic organisations. In 1929, Koegel's eight-year-old son died from measles and short time later, after 10 years, his marriage ended in divorce. On May 2, 1932 Max Koegel became member of the NSDAP (#1179781) and a month later also the SS (#37644).
Koegel became adjutant of the Dachau concentration camp commander in 1937. From 1938 to 1942 he was first "Direktor" (managing director) and then commander of the labour camp for women in Lichtenburg at Ravensbrück in the rank of Sturmbannführer (Major). In 1942 he was commander of the extermination camp Majdanek and involved in the installation of gas chambers at this site. From 1943 to 1945 he was commander at Flossenbürg concentration camp.
- 16 October 1895 ~27 June 1946
This original building of the SS camp also survives, just outside the memorial grounds. It was the SS Casino (officers club and dining hall), and is now a privately-owned restaurant. This building can be seen in the period photos below, above the headquarters building (left) and over the camp gate area (right). ( KZ-Gedenkstätte Flossenbürg)
Some of the camp officials and higher ranking SS personnel were housed in a specially constructed housing area on a hillside near the camp. These period log houses with stone foundations are still in use today.
On the left, the main gate to the prisoner area of the camp, seen in May 1945 following the liberation. The gate motto "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Works Makes You Free) appeared on the gate post at Flossenbürg, instead of the more common position of the gate ironwork itself. These gate posts were later moved to the memorial area called the "Valley of Death," overlooking the crematorium (without the "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign). (KZ-Gedenkstätte Flossenbürg)
The crematorium was actually a small building with only a dissection room and one oven. (U.S. Army photo)
These markers was placed by survivors of the Flossenbürg camp, in honor of their liberation by the U.S. Army 90th and 97th Infantry Divisions.
Statement of A. Mottet
I was sentenced to death by the War Council of Lille in January 1944 for espionage and membership of the GAULISTE RESISTANCE GROUP FOR LIBERATION. I was taken to the Concentration Camp at Flossenbürg in Bavaria on the 21st February 1944, and put into solitary confinement.
The Camp Commandant was Obersturmbannfuhrer SS Kegler, a native of Allgau, district of Bavaria. His adjutant was Obersturmfuhrer Baumgartner of Kuestrin, he was the real Commandant of the Camp, he alone looked after the prison cells as he was also in charge of preparing the prisoners for the SS Tribunal of Flossenbürg, which was in permanent sitting.
This Tribunal sentenced to death without the accused attending. The executions took place in the prison courtyard by either hanging or shooting in the neck. The victims were first taken to the bath-house – there Scharfuhrer Weihe (a native of Magdeburg) ordered them to take off all their clothes.
He then tied their hands on the back by means of a piece of wire, took off their rings and any religious insignia they had on them, tore up the photos of their families in front of them and finally led them to execution.
Weihe himself did the hangings. The executions by shooting were carried out by Sturmann Weisenborn, Willi (age 43, electrician from Eisenach/ Thuringia, SS volunteer since 1935) and Unterscharfuhrer Wolff, Gerhard (age 46, employee of the gas and electricity works of Wittenberg/ Elbe – Martin Luther’s birthplace – and living there in the Weinstrasse). In charge of these executions was the Adjutant Baumgartner. If the victims were Russian he often had them whipped before the execution.
Prisoners labor at FlossenbürgAlso present were a civilian doctor from a place about 10 kilometres off Flossenbürg, who was attached to the SS, and the SS dentist, who pulled the teeth of the victims after death. The dead were then carried by ordinary prisoners on trolleys to the crematorium, where they were burned, together with people who had died of starvation or disease or maltreatment.The civilians were not allowed to say a prayer or to give a farewell kiss to their dead comrades. Any suggestions of that kind drew insults and sarcasm. Afterwards the SS shared out any valuables the victims still possessed.
The prisoners who arrived at Flossenbürg from Special Courts or from outside working gangs (mostly Russian and Polish Officers) were held in cells stark naked, without towels, soap, blankets, toilet paper, heating, palliasses, very often 5,6 or 7 in the same cell, without food or water and sometimes they had to wait in this state four days for the execution.
After every execution, Baumgartner distributed cigars, tobacco, and “schnapps” to the SS who had participated. The Scharfuhrer Weihe hanged at least twelve men per day. There were not as many executions by shooting in the neck, but on the 4th September 1944, 132 Russian Officers were shot by Wolff, and two Ukrainian SS who came from the SS barracks for the purpose.
The cell prisoners who had permission for a half hour or one hour’s walk per day were able to observe traces of the executions in the following way:
The clothes of the victims were left in a heap on a trolley in the courtyard, often for several days. In wet weather one could see the prints of nude feet from the prison to the execution place, the blood in the gutter and the particles of brain scattered about.
When executions took place, the daily exercise was belated and shortened and they tried to prevent us from looking around. Also one heard the shots and the screams of the victims.
All cell prisoners were able to see the corpses being carried past their cell windows for about 200 yards. Not only I, but also the following prisoners, have observed all this. They were in single confinement also for a long time and will confirm all this if one saw fit to interrogate them:
Mr Gustav Celmin, from Latvia (Riga) of cell 19
Captain Hans Lunding from Denmark, Copenhagen
The Danish Vice-Consul in Danzig – Joergen Mogensen
Mr Greenwich of the British Legation in Sofia
Lt. Colonel of the Yugoslav Army Hinko Dragich, from Semlin, near Belgrade
The Danish Officers of the British Service, Mekelsen, Hansen, Lansen
Also Messrs Schuschnigg, Ex-Chancellor of Austria and the Prince of Hesse who had a room each. They were not in cells, and being better off than any other prisoners, they could hear better what happened.
On the 9th April 1944, Easter Day, there arrived at Flossenbürg 15 Allied Officers, who had come from the prison of Fresnes (France). They had carried out special missions and had been arrested in civilian clothes in France between June and August 1944.
I was then in Cell 26, my neighbour on the right in cell 25 was a Lieutenant of the British Airborne Infantry, George Desman, whose parents lived in Brussels (he was tattooed a lot on his chest). On my left in Cell 27 there was an American Lieutenant John ….
-I have forgotten his name, he was a Bachelor of Art of the University of Paris, and his father was building autogyros (helicopters) for the US Navy in New York. By means of Morse, we were in touch with each other every day.
They told me that they had been beaten and sentenced to death by the Gestapo in Paris. They and their comrades had been tortured in the cellars of the prison in the Avenue Foch (property of Rothschild) and had received the same treatment which was meted out to me in the same place (blows, kicked, whipped etc.)
Of the 15 there were 13 English, one American and a Canadian Major. The prisoner who brought us our food told us that the Canadian Major and the English Officer, who had occupied cell 23, had been shot on the 12 June 1944, by the Unterscharfuhrer Nies and Mohr, under the command of Baumgartner.
All these officers were in dark cells, had no outdoor exercise, had only the food of the ordinary prisoners, which meant that they were starved to death, they received no treatment in case of illness, left their cells only every 15 days for a shower and a change of shirt. The shower lasted only 5 minutes and they took it singly. They were shaved once a week, and their hair was cut once in two months. Very often they were deprived of food and beaten by Weihe.
The execution area at FlossenbürgDuring December 1944 and January 1945 – until the arrival of Schuscnigg I was the most senior prisoner and was ordered to help in the distribution of food and the maintenance of the central heating which was situated in the cellar of the prison.So I often had the opportunity to talk with Captain of Artillery, Harold Bowden, age 37, two children of London. He had been in the French campaign and at Flossenbürg he had Cell 7. He had studied in Paris and in 1942 he had been sent there for the Intelligence Service. He had been beaten by the SS so terribly that his brain was a bit upset.
In Cell number 1 was Lieutenant Jean Worms of Paris, son of the owner of the firm of “La Maison Blanche,” he was in the RAF, Jew, and also on permanent missions to France like Bowden. In Cell number 11 was Lieutenant Phillippe J. Amphlett, of 90 Liberal Club, London, age 27.
I have forgotten the names of the others, but the Englishman Greenwich and the Dane Mogensen, which I mentioned before, can complete this list, because they were also in touch through Morse. Mogensen received often Red Cross parcels and often he gave me books which I succeeded in passing on.
All these comrades of misfortune were hanged on Easter Thursday, 1945, under orders from Baumgartner, just ten days before our evacuation from Flossenbürg to Dachau. On the first Saturday of October 1944, twelve Russian Generals were shot by Wolff in the prison courtyard. One of them wore the badges of a commander of the Armoured Corps.
Three Polish women of the Warsaw Resistance, one of them eight months pregnant, were hanged on the 8th January by Weihe. On the 11thJanuary, two Polish children, 12 and 13 years old were killed and dragged by their legs by Weihe.
Through the cracks in our cell doors we could see the prisoners condemned to death pass by on their way to the executions. Mr Celmin, whom I have mentioned before, can confirm this. Later on one could see the return of the corpses on the trolleys.
My work in the central heating cellar enabled me to see there some instruments of torture, such as whips, oxen-tails, knotted ropes, cat o’nine tails, as well as parts of English, French, Russian and Belgian uniforms.
During one execution I was locked in my cell, but when I went into the cellar afterwards I found bits of jaws and teeth and also bits of brain still sticking to frames which the SS had not burned completely in the incinerator. I often heard screams and groans from the coal cellar which was situated under the prison courtyard, but I was never able to find out more about it.
I would like to mention especially the Prince of Hesse. He was very friendly with the SS Wolff, Weihe and Weissenborg. He was also a great friend of the Commandant, who paid him courtesy calls every week. Before his arrest he had been an SS General.
With reference to the tortures to which I had been subjected in Lille and Paris during the interrogations about my case, I would like to reserve my detailed statement until my return to France. I will just say here that I was not spared anything on behalf of the Gestapo: hunger, oxen-tails, thumb screws, broken teeth, fetters.
I am at the disposal of the Allies for all this information, and after having seen my family again, I am prepared to accompany a mission to Flossenbürg.
I have made this statement as a solemn declaration and I demand that justice be done.
Signed: A. Mottet, Foreman, Raismes (Nord France, Naples, 12th May 1945
PS. All guards at Flossenbürg were members of the SS Sturmbann Totenkopf
This is a true translation to the best of my ability.
Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment
The Commandant’s correct name was Max Koegel
The American in Cell 27 was John Sullivan
Holocaust Survivor Jack Terry
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Terry, as you know, prosecutors in Munich have filed charges against John Demjanjuk on more than 29,000 counts of accessory to murder. As the only member of your family to have survived the Holocaust, what is your reaction to the prosecution?
Terry: It is absolutely vital that anyone involved in such horrific events face appropriate judicial proceedings.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Demjanjuk is almost 90 years old. Should he, if found guilty, be incarcerated?
Terry: I would be satisfied even if he was locked up in a cell for just one day. For me that day, however short it may be, would be very symbolic.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: As a child, you were tortured for nine months at the Concentration Camp Flossenbürg. According to the prosecutors, Demjanjuk was a guard there at precisely the same time as you were. Do you recall seeing him there?
Terry: No. I didn't know those on duty by name.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: As a Ukrainian, Demjanjuk belonged to the so-called Trawniki, the non-German guards of the SS.
Terry: Hundreds of Trawniki served in Flossenbürg. The concentration camp personnel was all capable of tremendous brutality -- but the Trawniki surpassed them all.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Flossenbürg was your third and last camp. Where did your ordeal begin?
Terry: It began in 1939, when I could no longer go to school. My first concentration camp was in Butzin, in the Lublin district (eds. note: now located in eastern Poland). I was just 13 years old. They had transported my father to Majdanek and I never saw him again. On May 8, 1943 the SS and the Trawniki carried out the selection process at the camp. My older sister did not want to be separated from my mother. SS Corporal Reinhold Feix shot and killed her in front of my mother, and then he killed my mother too. It was totally surreal, but back then, it was the reality. I can still feel my mother's suffering.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: You were 14 years old when, in August 1944, you were transported to Flossenbürg. Where did you have to work?
Terry: First in a stone quarry. But I was far too small and too weak to lift heavy stones. After two weeks I felt sure that I wouldn't survive. The skin on my fingers was in shreds and I could not touch anything anymore. Then I was taken to the Messerschmitt production facility, where for the Me109 ...
SPIEGEL ONLINE: ... a fighter plane of Hitler's Air Force ...
Terry: ... the lower and upper flaps were installed on the wings. I had to drive in the rivets. Then I was put in the prison laundry.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: In the spring of 1945 the Americans were closing in. The SS evacuated the concentration camp and sent the prisoners on one of the death marches to another camp in the direction of Dachau.
Terry: I was hidden by a camp clerk called Milos Kucera. I was in a tunnel which led from the laundry to the kitchen, directly underneath the parade ground. I was lying on hot pipes and above me I heard shots, trampling, screaming. It was dark, I had nothing to eat and nothing to drink.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Then, on April 23, US forces liberated Flossenbürg.
Terry: I was liberated -- but I was not free. For the first time I was able to think beyond my hunger. For the first time I realized that now, at the age of 15, I was completely alone in the world. I no longer had any family, I had nothing. This is one of my memories of that day.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Anything else?
Terry: An episode that in retrospect appears somewhat surreal. We were hungry, so a US officer drew his pistol to kill a horse for us. As he pulled the trigger, he could not look at the animal. He looked away. An animal! I had seen scores of people die. I had seen SS-members throwing babies out of windows or smashing them against house walls, and this captain had scruples about shooting a horse. In a flash, I again saw how cruelly my mother and my sister had lost their lives.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What happened then?
Terry: A colonel took me with him. I came to the United States via France. The oOfficer wanted to adopt me, but that was not possible as he was still in the army. Ten years later, I returned to Germany as a young lieutenant in the US military. I was based at Schwetzingen.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: You first worked as a geologist and then studied psychoanalysis. Was that influenced by your life experiences?
Terry: Yes, most definitely. I wanted to know why humans did what I had seen them do; how humans had sunk to such depths. And I also wanted to try to help those people who suffered like I had. A number of former concentration camp prisoners were among my patients.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Can therapy be at all helpful to these people?
Terry: The short answer is -- no. They continue to live with this horrific experience and they have not been able to mourn the deaths of their loved ones during the fight for their own survival. Coping with grief is so immensely important. I left Flossenbürg as quickly as possible, but Flossenbürg did not leave me. For all former prisoners, this history forms the corner stone of our lives.
Interview conducted by Georg Bönisch:
In this archive photo from 1999, Holocaust survivor Jack Terry stands beneath a guard tower in the Flossenbürg concentration camp where he was imprisoned during World War II.
Vittore Bocchetta was born in Sassari to a military engineer. After his childhood in Sardinia, he moved with his family first to Bologna and then to Verona. Even if belonging to a family of artists, his parents did not permit him to paint or draw because they were afraid that he might be distracted from his education. After his father's early death in 1935, he went back to Sardinia with his family. He received a degree in classical humanities in Cagliari in 1938. Then, he returned to Verona and was admitted to the University of Florence, faculty of classical humanities and history of philosophy, where he graduated in 1944. He earned a living by teaching private lessons and as a professor of classical humanities at Ginnasio Maffei (1939) and Istituto alle Stimate (1942) in Verona.
Activity during Italian resistance (1940-1945)
His dedication to the principles of political freedom led him to be reported to the Fascist Italian authorities in 1941. He was soon involved in underground anti-Fascist activities. On September 9, 1943, the day after the occupation of Verona by the German army, he contributed to the liberation of several hundreds of Italian soldiers from the Carlo Montanari barracks, where they were kept prisoners by the Nazis. He was jailed for the first time in November 1943 together with his group of anti-Fascist comrades. Among the rare moments of comfort there were the visits of Father Chiot, the prison chaplain.
When released in February 1944, he became a member of the local unit of the National Liberation Committee as an independent. He had just enough time to graduate in Florence in May 1944 and was again arrested by the Fascist Italian police in July 1944. After two weeks of interrogation and torture, he was handed over to the SD, the intelligence service of the SS, and tortured once more. After a brief stay in theBolzano Transit Camp, he was deported on September 4, 1944 to the Flossenbürg concentration camp where he was registered with the number 21631. On September 30, 1944 he was destined for the subsidiary camp of Hersbruck where he was used in forced labor of digging a tunnel to a nearby mountain (Houbirg) near Happurg.Within a few months he witnessed the death of several of his comrades from Verona. He managed to survive thanks to a series of fortuitous circumstances and his relatively young age (26 years). In early April 1945, with the approach of US and UK forces, the Hersbruck camp was evacuated by the Germans and the survivors had to move towards southern Bavaria with so-called death marches. During one of the stages, near Schmidmühlen, he managed to escape together with a deported French. He dropped unconscious in front of the fence of Stalag 383, a camp for Allied prisoners of war at Hohenfels, by that time virtually left unattended by the German Nazis. He was cared for and nurtured by a group of Allied prisoners and recovered gradually. Liberated by the Americans in May 1945, after a stay in Regensburg, he finally returned to Italy in June 1945.
Bogislaw von Bonin
Bogislaw von Bonin
Bonin was born in Potsdam, Province of Brandenburg and joined the 4. Reiterregiment (Cavalry Regiment) of the German Reichswehr in 1926. He was educated at the Infantry school Dresden together with Claus von Stauffenberg and Manfred von Brauchitsch in October 1927 - August 1928 and was promoted a Lieutenant in 1930. In 1937/38 he visited the War academy (Kriegsakademie) in Berlin and became a member of the Army High Command in 1938.
In 1943 he was the Commander of the XIV. Panzerkorps at Sicily and for a short time Chief of Staff of the LVI.Panzerkorps of the 1. Hungarian Army in 1944. He attained the rank of a Colonel, and became the Chief of the Operational Branch of the Army General Staff (Generalstab des Heeres).Arrest
On January 16, 1945 Bonin gave Heeresgruppe A the permission to retreat from Warsaw during the Soviet Vistula-Oder Offensive rejecting a direct command from Adolf Hitler for them to hold fast. He was arrested by the Gestapo on January 19, 1945 and imprisoned first atFlossenbürg concentration camp and then Dachau concentration camp.
With several members of the July 20 plot and other notable prisoners such as Léon Blum, Kurt Schuschnigg, Hjalmar Schacht, Franz Halderand Fritz Thyssen he was transferred to Niederdorf/Hochpustertal. On April 30, 1945 he managed to contact senior Wehrmacht officers who used regular German troops to overwhelm the SS guards . The former prisoners were accommodated at the Pragser Wildsee Hotel until US troops marched into Niederdorf on May 4, 1945
- January 17, 1908~1980
Born in Riga, he was educated at the commerce school of the Riga Stock Exchange, and graduated in Moscow. In 1917, he began studies at the Riga Polytechnical Institute which had been evacuated to Moscow. After the October Revolution, he returned to Latvia.
In 1918, Celmi?š enlisted into the newly-created Latvian Army, and was promoted to lieutenant the following year, and was then appointed Latvian military attaché in Poland. In 1921, he was awarded the Order of L??pl?sis.
Retired from army in 1924, he worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1925 to 1927. Celmi?š became the secretary of Minister of Foreign Affairs, and subsequently worked in the Finance Ministry. On 24 January 1932, the Latvian nationalist group Ugunskrusts was founded, and Gustavs Celmi?š was elected as its leader. After Ugunskrusts was banned, he founded the organization P?rkonkrusts("Thundercross"). Common for both organisations was that they advocated a national revolution for a radical re-organisation of society, politics, and the economy in Latvia. Following K?rlis Ulmanis' 15 May 1934 coup d'état, Celmi?š was arrested and imprisoned for three years. He was exiled from Latvia in 1937.
Celmi?š moved to Italy, then Switzerland. While in Zürich, he was arrested and then banished from Switzerland. He later lived in Romania, where he had contacts with the Iron Guard, and then moved to Finland. In 1938, he became the leader of P?rkonkrusts' "foreign contacts office". After the Soviet Union invaded Finland, Celmi?š enrolled as a volunteer on the latter's side. When the conflict ended, he moved to Nazi Germany.
After the occupation authorities once again banned P?rkonkrusts in August 1941, Celmi?š continued his outward collaboration with the Germans in the hopes that sizable Latvian military formations would be created. From February 1942, he headed the Committee for Organising Latvian Volunteers (Latvian: Latviešu br?vpr?t?go organiz?cijas komiteja), the main function of which was the recruitment of Latvian men for the Latvian Auxiliary Police Battalions, known in German as Schutzmannschaften or simply Schuma. Aside from front-line combat duties, these battalions were also deployed in anti-partisan operations Latvia and Belarus that included the massacres of rural Jews and other civilians. This situation was not what Celmi?š had hoped for, and so he began to sabotage the recruitment efforts. Because of this, he was later transferred to a job as a minor clerk within the occupation administration.
P?rkonkrusts members working within the SD apparatus in occupied Latvia would feed Celmi?š information, some of which he would include in his underground, anti-German publication Br?v? Latvija. This eventually led to Celmi?š and his associates being arrested by the Gestapo in 1944, with Celmi?š ending up imprisoned in Flossenbürg concentration camp.
In late April 1945 he was, together with other prominent concentration camp inmates, transferred to Tyrol where the SS left the prisoners behind. He was liberated by the Fifth U.S. Army on 5 May 1945.
After World War II, he lived in Italy, where he published the newspaper Br?v? Latvija. In 1947 he published the autobiographic book Eiropas krustce?os ("At the Crossroads of Europe").
In 1949 he emigrated to the United States. From 1950 to 1952 he was an instructor at Syracuse University's Armed Forces school in New York state, and beginning in 1951 he was also the director of the Foreign Language program for the US Air Force, and a television lecturer about the USSR and communism. From 1954 to 1956 he worked as a manufacturer in Mexico. Between 1956 and 1958 he was a librarian atTrinity University in San Antonio, Texas. In 1959 he became a professor of Russian studies at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas. He died on 10 April 1968 in San Antonio, Texas
- 10 April 1968
In 1948 she won a bronze medal in the art competitions of the Olympic Games for her "Der Jugendquell" ("The Well of Youth").
- (July 6, 1914 – July 9, 1981
(June 30, 1884 – April 2, 1972)
n 1914 during World War I, Halder became an Ordnance Officer, serving in the Headquarters of the Bavarian 3rd Army Corps. In August, 1915 he was promoted toHauptmann (Captain) on the General Staff of the 6th Army (at that time commanded by Rupprecht, Crown Prince of Bavaria). During 1917 he served as a General Staffofficer in the Headquarters of the 2nd Army, before being transferred to the 4th Army.
In March 1924 Halder was promoted to major and by 1926 he served as the Director of Operations (Oberquartiermeister of Operations: O.Qu.I.) on the General Staff of the Wehrkreis VII in Munich. In February 1929 he was promoted to Oberstleutnant (lieutenant colonel), and from October 1929 through late 1931 he served on the Training staff in the Reichswehr Ministry.
After being promoted to Oberst (colonel) in December 1931, Halder served as the Chief of Staff, Wehrkreis Kdo VI, in Münster (Westphalia) through early 1934. During the 1930s the German military staff thought that Poland might attack the detached German province of East Prussia. As such, they reviewed plans as to how to defend East Prussia.
After being promoted to Generalmajor, equal to a U.S./British Major general as the German Army had no brigades or Brigadier general rank (as neither did the Red Army) in October 1934, Halder served as the Commander of the 7th Infantry Division in Munich.
Recognized as a fine staff officer and planner, in August 1936 Halder was promoted to Generalleutnant (rank of a corps commander, hence equivalent to a US Army Lieutenant General). He then became the director of the Manoeuvres Staff. Shortly thereafter, he became director of the Training Branch (Oberquartiermeister of Training, O.Qu.II), on the General Staff of the Army, in Berlin between October 1937 and February 1938. During this period he directed important training maneuvers, the largest held since the reintroduction of conscription in 1935.
On February 1, 1938 Halder was promoted to General der Artillerie (which the German Army considered a full General, equivalent to a US Army four-star General). Around this date General Wilhelm Keitel was attempting to reorganize the entire upper leadership of the German Army. Keitel had asked Halder to become Chief of the General Staff (Oberquartiermeister of operations, training & supply; O.Qu.I ) and report to General Walther von Reichenau. However, Halder declined as he felt he could not work with Reichenau very well, due to a personality dispute. As Keitel recognized Halder's superior military planning skills, Keitel met with Hitler and enticed him to appoint General Walther von Brauchitsch as commander-in-chief of the German Army. Halder then accepted becoming Chief of the General Staff of the Army (Oberkommando des Heeres) on September 1, 1938, and succeeded General Ludwig Beck.
A week later, Halder presented plans to Hitler on how to invade Czechoslovakia with a pincer movement by General Gerd von Rundstedt and General Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb. Instead, Hitler directed that Reichenau should make the main thrust into Prague. Neither plan was necessary once British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain brokered the "Munich Agreement", by surrendering the Czech region ofSudetenland to Germany. Just before Chamberlain capitulated to Hitler, Halder—in an attempt to avoid war—discussed with several other generals the idea of removing Hitler from power. However, on September 29 Chamberlain gave in to Hitler’s demands, and Halder’s plot to remove Hitler died as peace had been preserved. Two days later, on October 1, German troops entered the Sudetenland.World War II
Halder participated in the strategic planning for all operations of the first part of the war. For his role in the planning and preparing of theinvasion of Poland he received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 27 October 1939.
On September 1, 1939 Germany invaded Poland and thereby started World War II. On September 19 Halder noted in his diary that he had received information from the SS Commander Reinhard Heydrich that the SS was beginning its campaign to "clean house" in Poland of Jews, intelligentsia, Catholic Clergy, and the aristocracy. This led to future criticism by historians that Halder knew about the killings of Jews much earlier than he later acknowledged during post-World War II interviews, and that he failed to object to such killings. Halder noted in his diary his doubts "about the measures intended by Himmler".
During November 1939, Halder conspired with General Brauchitsch. Halder declared that he would support Brauchitsch if he were to try to curtail Hitler’s plans for further expansion of the war, but Brauchitsch declined (the so-called Zossen Conspiracy). Brauchitsch and Halder had decided to overthrow Hitler after the latter had fixed "X-day" for the invasion of France for November 12, 1939; an invasion that both officers believed to be doomed to fail. During a meeting with Hitler on November 5, Brauchitsch had attempted to talk Hitler into putting off "X-day" by saying that morale in the German Army was worse than what it was in 1918, a statement that enraged Hitler who harshly berated Brauchitsch for incompetence. After that meeting, both Halder and Brauchitsch told Carl Friedrich Goerdeler that overthrowing Hitler was simply something that they could not do, and he should find other officers if he that was what he really wanted to. Equally important, on November 7, 1939 following heavy snowstorms, Hitler put off "X-Day" until further notice, which removed the reason that had most motivated Brauchitsch and Halder to consider overthrowing Hitler. On November 23, 1939, Goerdeler met with Halder to ask him to re-consider his attitude. Halder gave Goerdeler the following reasons why he wanted nothing to do with any plot to overthrow Hitler:
- That General Erich Ludendorff had launched the Kaiserschlacht in March 1918, which led directly to Germany's defeat in November 1918, yet most people in Germany still considered Ludendorff one of Germany's greatest heroes. By contrast, the men who staged theNovember Revolution and signed the armistice that took Germany out of a losing war were hated all over the Reich as the "November Criminals". Even if Hitler were to launch an invasion of France that signally failed, most people would still support Hitler, just as the failure of the Kaiserschlacht had failed to hurt Ludendorff's reputation as it should have, so the Army could do nothing to overthrow Hitler until the unlikely event that his prestige was badly damaged. Until Hitler was discredited, anyone who acted against him to end the war would be a "new November Criminal".
- That Hitler was a great leader, and there was nobody to replace him.
- Most of the younger officers in the Army were extreme National Socialists who would not join a putsch.
- Hitler deserved "a last chance to deliver the German people from the slavery of English capitalism".
- Finally, "one does not rebel when face to face with the enemy".
Despite all of Goerdeler's best efforts, Halder would not change his mind.
While Halder opposed Hitler’s expanded war plans, like all officers he had taken a personal loyalty oath to Hitler. Thus, he felt unable to take direct action against the Führer. At one point, Halder thought the situation to be so desperate that he considered shooting Hitler himself. A colonel close to Halder noted in his diary that "Amid tears, Halder had said for weeks that he had a pistol in his pocket every time he went to Emil [cover name for Hitler] in order to possibly gun him down."
At the end of 1939, Halder oversaw development of the invasion plans of France, the Low Countries, and the Balkans. In late 1939-early 1940 Halder was an opponent of Operation Weserübung, which he believed was doomed to failure, and made certain the OKH had nothing to do with the planning for Weserübung, which was entirely the work of OKW and the OKM. Halder initially doubted that Germany could successfully invade France. General Erich von Manstein's bold plan for invading France through the Ardennes Forest proved successful, and ultimately led to the capture of France. In early April 1940, Halder had a secret meeting with Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, who asked him to consider a putsch while the Phoney War was still on, while the British and French were still open to a negotiated peace. Halder refused Goerdeler's request. Goerdeler told Halder that too many people had already died in the war, and this refusal to remove Hitler at this point would ensure that the blood of millions would be on his hands. Halder told Goerdeler that his oath to Hitler and his belief in Germany`s inevitable victory in the war preluded his acting against the Nazi regime. Halder told Goerdeler that "The military situation of Germany, particularly on account of the pact of non-aggression with Russia is such that a breach of my oath to the Führer could not possibly be justified", that only if Germany was faced with total defeat would he consider breaking his oath, and that Goerdeler was a fool to believe that World War II could be ended with a compromise peace.
On July 19, 1940 Halder was promoted to Generaloberst (literally "colonel general" – rank of a senior Army or Army Group commander, used in peacetime only for the C-in-C of the German Army and having no exact U.S. Army equivalent). In August, he began working on Operation Barbarossa, the invasion plan for the Soviet Union. Shortly thereafter, to curtail Halder’s military-command power, Hitler limited the General's involvement in the war by restricting him to developing battle plans for only the Eastern Front. On March 17, 1941 Hitler in a secret meeting with Halder and the rest of the most senior Generals stated that for Barbarossa, Germany was to disregard all of the rules of war, and the war against the Soviet Union was to be a war of extermination. Halder, who was so vocal in arguing with Hitler about military matters, made no protest. On March 30, 1941 in a secret speech to his leading generals, Hitler described the sort of war he wanted Operation Barbarossa to be according to the notes taken by Halder as:
"Struggle between two ideologies. Scathing evaluation of Bolshevism, equals antisocial criminality. Communism immense future danger...This a fight to the finish. If we do not accept this, we shall beat the enemy, but in thirty years we shall again confront the Communist foe. We don't make war to preserve the enemy...Struggle against Russia: Extermination of Bolshevik Commissars and of the Communist intelligentsia...Commissars and GPU personnel are criminals and must be treated as such. The struggle will differ from that in the west. In the east harshness now means mildness for the future."
Though General Halder's notes did not record any mention of Jews, the German historian Andreas Hillgruber argued that because Hitler's frequent statements at the same time about the coming war of annihilation against "Judeo-Bolshevism", that his generals would have implicitly understood Hitler's call for the total destruction of the Soviet Union as also comprising a call for the total destruction of the Jewish population of the Soviet Union.
In 1941, Halder, contrary to what he was to claim after the war did not oppose the Commissar Order, and instead welcomed it writing that "Troops must participate in the ideological battle in the Eastern campaign to the end". As part of the planning for Barbarossa, Halder in a directive declared that in the event of guerilla attacks, German troops were to impose "collective measures of force" by massacring entire villages. In December 1941, Halder was not happy when Hitler fired von Brauchitsch and assumed the command of OKH himself, but chose to stay on as the best way of ensuring that Germany won the war. Halder appeared on the June 29, 1942 cover of Time magazine.Franz Halder
During the summer of 1942 Halder told Hitler that he was underestimating the number of Russian military units; Hitler argued that the Russians were nearly broken. Furthermore, Hitler did not like Halder’s objections to sending General Manstein’s 11th Army to assist in the attack against Leningrad. Halder also had thought that the German attack into the Caucasus was ill advised. Finally, because of Halder’s disagreement with Hitler’s conduct of the war, Hitler decided that the General no longer possessed an aggressive war mentality, and therefore retired Halder into the "Fuhrer Reserve" on September 24, 1942.
On July 20, 1944 a group of German army officers attempted to assassinate Hitler. The following day Halder was arrested by the Gestapo, although he was not involved in the assassination attempt. As Hitler considered Halder a possible leader who could overthrow him, Halder was imprisoned at both the Flossenbürg and the Dachau concentration camps. On January 31, 1945 Halder was officially dismissed from the army. Together with some members of the July 20 plot and other notable prisoners he was transferred to Tyrol, where he was liberated by US troops on May 4 after the SS guards fled. Halder spent the next two years in a prisoner of war camp.
During the 1950s, Halder worked as a war historian advisor to the U.S. Army Historical Division. During the early 1950s Halder advised on the redevelopment of the post-World War II German army (see: Searle's "Wehrmacht Generals"). He died in 1972 in Aschau im Chiemgau, Bavaria.
- June 30, 1884 – April 2, 1972)
Heinz Heger was the pen name used by Josef Kohout
(1917 – March 1994), an Austrian Nazi concentration camp survivor. Kohout had been imprisoned for his homosexuality, which the German penal code's Paragraph 175 made criminal. He is known best as the author, under the Heger pseudonym, of the 1972 book Die Männer mit dem rosa Winkel (The Men With the Pink Triangle), one of very few autobiographical accounts of the treatment of homosexuals inNazi imprisonment. The book has been translated into several languages, and a second edition produced in 1994. It was the first testimony from a homosexual survivor of the concentration camps to be translated into English and is regarded as the best known. Its publication helped to illuminate not just the suffering gay prisoners of the Nazi regime had experienced, but the lack of recognition and compensation they received after the war's end.
'The day regularly began at 6am, or 5am in the summer, and in just half an hour we had to be washed, dressed and have our beds made up in military style. If you still had time, you could have breakfast, which meant a hurried slurping down the thin flour soup, hot or lukewarm, and eating your piece of bread. Then we had to form up in eights on the parade ground for morning roll call. Work followed, in winter from 7.30am to 5pm, and in summer from 7am to 8pm, with a half hour break at the workplace. After work, straight back to camp and immediate parade for evening roll-call.'
Heinz Heger (pseudonym), 'The Men with the Pink Triangle'
Homosexuals were often given the most gruelling work to do in the camps and many died though exhaustion as a result. Forced to carry heavy boulders in quarries, many suffered terrible injuries as a result. Other jobs included moving meaningless quantities of stones for days on end from one side of the camp to the other in an SS attempt to break the 'homosexual spirit'. By 1943 the SS had begun the 'Extermination through work program', specifically designed to literally work homosexuals and criminals to death.
'In the morning we had to cart the snow outside our block from the left side of the road to the right side. In the afternoon we had to cart the same snow back from the right side to the left… …We had to shovel up the snow with our hands - our bare hands, as we didn't have any gloves. We worked in teams of two… …This mental and bodily torment lasted six days, until at last new pink-triangle prisoners were delivered to our block and took over for us. Our hands were cracked all over and half frozen off, and we had become dumb and indifferent slaves of the SS'.
Heinz Heger, 'The Men with the Pink Triangle'
Gays were treated with particular contempt not only the SS but also by many of the other inmates, who regarded them as degenerate perverts. Life in the camps was a solitary existence making it hard to survive mentally for any period of time. In the face of such hatred and degradation, it is no surprise that many committed suicide by running into electric perimeter fences rather than face ongoing persecution.
Despite the hostility of many inmates in the camps some pink triangles did still manage to reach out and help others. For example, Kitty Fisher, a Jewish inmate sent to Auschwitz in 1944 at the age of 16, credits a pink triangle inmate for both her sisters' and her own survival. On arrival to the camp, a male prisoner, who had been at Auschwitz since 1940, helped her. He helped her with food and regularly gave her and her sister hope. Before he saw her for the last time, he advised her on a large selection that would ultimately serve to liquidate the camp. He told her to pretend she was a weaver and to tell the SS that her and her sister were trained. This advice was ultimately to save her life:'May his memory be blessed because he contributed to my survival''Half a year I was kept bent over... My hands were tied to my ankles. When they brought the food, the bowl was on the floor; they poured it from above and it was spilled all over. I had to lick it up with my tongue. We couldn't go out, so your pants were soiled.'
Survivor Paul Gerhard Vogel
Camp punishments for various misdemeanours included tree hanging, featuring a high pole erected with a hook from which a victim, already shackled from behind, was strung up by the hands. The weight of the body soon pulled the arms up resulting in excruciating pain as the shoulders twisted under the strain. These poles were arranged in multiple lines and referred to 'the singing forest'. Gay survivor Heinz Dörmer recalls 'The howling and the screaming was inhuman.'
Another popular punishment was the horse: a wooden bench over which a victim was secured stomach down, legs and arms tied to the legs, before being struck several times with a blunt instrument or whip. Other forms of punishment included standing still for hours on end either in the heat of the day of the cold of night and being made to crawl along a concrete floor again and again on bare elbows and knees. All of these punishments were carried out in front of other inmates adding to the humiliation.
'Two SS men brought a young man to the center of the square… …the SS stripped him naked and shoved a tin pale over his head. Next, they sicced their ferocious German shepherds on him: the guard dogs first bit into his groin and thighs, then devoured him right in front of us. His shrieks of pain were distorted and amplified by the pain in which his head was trapped. My rigid body reeled, my eyes gaped at so much horror, tears poured down my cheeks, I fervently prayed that he would black out quickly.'
Pierre Seel, 'Liberation Was for Others'
Sometimes the SS would order all prisoners onto the main roll call square where they would be forced to watch executions. These public displays of horrific violence would act as harsh deterrents to any inmate thinking of stepping out of line and add to the climate of terror and solitude.
In some camps the pink triangles were integrated with other prison blocks but other camps, such as Sachsenhausen, special 175 blocks were erected to house homosexuals in segregation.In these blocks the pink triangles were made to sleep only in their nightshirts with hands outside the thin blankets and clearly visible. This was to prevent any physical contact with other inmates sharing the bunk. The overhead lights were also left on at all times making it harder to sleep for any period of time.
In spite of the harsh conditions in the camps, or even because of it, relationships were formed. Survivors talk of beneficial sexual and emotional bonds that existed between inmates and camp commandants, block leaders and even in some cases, SS guards. Guards and capos- the block leaders often took a male prisoner that they liked and kept them as 'pets'. In the absence of women, who were forbidden entry to men's blocks, it appeared that sexual drives were often stronger than sexual boundaries. Those 'lucky' enough to be chosen as pets would receive extra food rations in return for sexual favours and often avoided the hard labour forced onto the other prisoners.
While the majority of these relationships were clearly driven by desperate times and survival tactics, others were driven by genuine affection in the face of unbelievable hardship.
If harsh physical work and brutal punishments were not enough to fear, many homosexuals were also selected for the various medical experiments undertaken by SS doctors. At Auschwitz Birkenau for example, SS physician Dr. Carl Vaernet attempted to rid gay men of their homosexual tendencies by the surgical insertion of testosterone capsules.
- 1917 – March 1994
The Road to Neunburg
NEUNBURG VORM WALD, Germany -- Those sounds, those terrible sounds are what people here recall most vividly from 60 years ago, perhaps because what they heard has never really gone away.
They hear the echoes, still.
The people of this beautiful and ugly town who were here during the final days of World War II still hear the sobbing, the pleading, the cries of skeletal men one breath from dead. They hear the gunshots, hear the brief and sickening quiet, then the soft slap of bodies falling in heaps on gravel and grass and blood-dampened sand.
There is no gentle way to tell the story of what happened back then in this Bavarian town.
On April 21, 1945, a Saturday night, Nazi SS guards slaughtered 161 men along Neunburg vorm Wald's roadsides and farms, on the town's church lawns and in its schoolyards, shot them dead or brained them with rifle butts, not as some desperate tactic to win the war but because they knew they had already lost it.
These men, all of them prisoners, were among the last of the 37 million people killed in World War II, murdered just days before the Allies arrived to liberate them.
Because of how they were killed -- and even more because of what happened in the days afterward -- the end of the war for Neunburg has never quite arrived.
"What happened is not just something that we should not forget," said Neunburg's mayor, Wolfgang Bayerl. "It is something we cannot forget."
The soldiers forced the townspeople to dig up the bodies, then to mourn the murdered men and bury them with some measure of dignity.
That is mostly because of the actions of the U.S. soldiers who arrived in town and discovered the 161 bodies dumped like trash in shallow graves on a hill. Despite the scale of killing in World War II, the soldiers would not permit 161 murdered men to be trivialized.
The soldiers forced the townspeople -- all of the 2,500 except children under 5 and the very old -- to dig up the bodies, then to mourn the murdered men and bury them with some measure of dignity.
The day before these men were killed they had been prisoners in a concentration camp called Flossenburg, about 25 miles north of Neunburg. The Allies were closing in.
By then the whole world, including Hitler, knew that the outcome of the war was certain. The Nazis could not win. Nevertheless, as the SS guards had already done at Auschwitz and other camps as the Allies drew near, they hurriedly evacuated Flossenburg.
Another death march had begun.
About 17,000 prisoners were marched out the gates that April 20, a Friday. They were split into groups, taking different routes south toward the well-known concentration camp at Dachau.
Prisoners too weak to hurry -- thousands of them -- were killed along the route. Most of the deaths occurred in the Bavarian forests undetected, silent to anybody but the prisoners and their captors.
But the next day, Saturday, the march came upon Neunburg (NOYN-burg), and now those sounds would be heard.
The screams came in different languages, but to the Germans all the words meant the same.
"Mutter! Bitte! Hilfe! Nein!"
"Mother! Please! Help! No!" begged the prisoners, gaunt from forced labor, starvation and disease, the sentence for the crime of being Jews.
Then the shots.
If the true magnitude of World War II -- the most destructive conflict in the history of man -- is simply too large to grasp, look to Neunburg when those screams and gunshots first became part of this valley, during those final days of April 1945.
"We had seen the sick, and we had seen the dead, but that didn't prepare us for that Saturday night," said Rosa Hastreiter, who heard those sounds at age 21 as she lay in bed, motionless, and who still hears them at age 81.
"It was those sounds, those sounds, that were so terrible, so awful I could never forget."
The dead, their killers, the townspeople, the U.S. soldiers bent on right, were the war encapsulated, its worldwide costs and purpose and heroism and sheer ugliness condensed here in the isolation of this lush green valley near the Czech border.
All year, in advance of V-E day on May 8, commemorations have been held to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the killing factories of the Nazis: At Auschwitz and Buchenwald, Majdanek and Dachau, Treblinka and Sobibor and Flossenburg. Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and real or perceived members of the German opposition were killed in these camps, and world leaders have gathered at these places.
Neunburg is not a place for world leaders. The village seems, somehow, to be almost isolated in its history and trapped in it.
Photographs from 1945 show the cobblestoned main street, called Hauptstrasse, looking very much the same as today. Then, as now, the Altes Schloss, a castle dating from the 10th century, towers overhead. Houses with double-sized doors share the sides of the street with little, family-owned markets. City hall still arcs over that street.
"What the Americans did here -- maybe that could be considered harsh," said Mayor Bayerl, who at 59 was not yet born when Neunburg became a killing field, but knows well that prisoners from Flossenburg had been marched on the street beneath the office where he speaks.
"Then I think what happened and what the Nazis did -- these human beasts, I call them -- and I think, maybe the Americans had the right idea."
Rosa Hastreiter is more certain because, she said, somebody has to be responsible. As frightening as the screaming and gunshots were, she remembers just as vividly the sounds that followed.
"I heard the cries for help -- 'Mother! Please! Help! No!' -- and then I heard shots," she said.
"And then I heard the bodies land."
'Whispers' of slaughter
On April 29, 1945, Lee McCardell, a Sun war correspondent, sent this dispatch back to Baltimore: "The little men of Neunburg, who say they did not know what went on in the Nazi concentration camps, know now. So do the women and older children of Neunburg."
In fact, it now appears clear that many people in this town did not know what was happening up the road, at the Flossenburg camp, or at any of the other camps. But it also is clear that many Germans did.
"Anybody who wanted to know could have known. But nobody wanted to know."
"Of course there were whispers," said the elderly Hastreiter, who worked for the local government during the war. "Anybody who wanted to know could have known. But nobody wanted to know. You didn't dare."
What they did not want to know, or what they ignored -- many out of fear that they themselves would become prisoners or killed by the SS -- was that the camps set up for Jews and the others were not merely harsh prisons but places where hundreds of thousands of people were worked to their death.
The Flossenburg concentration camp and its satellite camps scarring the hills held about 100,000 prisoners. Most worked its rock quarries. At least 30,000 people died there, perhaps double that.
The German army was collapsing on itself as the Allies strangled it. In Bavaria, the 2nd U.S. Calvary, led by Col. Charles Reed, was closing in on Flossenburg along with other elements of the 3rd U.S. Army, commanded by Gen. George S. Patton.
The SS at Flossenburg followed Hitler's orders, which applied to all the Nazi concentration camps: The camps were to be evacuated of prisoners and rid of any evidence about the activities there.
On the edge of Neunburg, Johann Deml was working with one of his brothers, Alois, on the family farm, not yet bare of chickens and cattle.
The Demls were and are a country-sized family - all 10 children still survive -- Alois, now 65, the youngest. The farm is a speck on a vast flat within gently rolling green hills, a few miles from the village center.
SS guards and a column of about 500 prisoners from Flossenburg arrived on the Deml farm on April 21, the day after the death march began.
"It was a pretty Saturday, very early in the morning," said Johann Deml, straining not at all as he recalled the details. "The Nazis knew the end was near. They arrived, and the soldiers wanted eggs and warm food. They said, 'This will be our last warm meal for some time.'
"My father wanted to feed the prisoners because they were so hungry. The SS said, 'No. You will not feed them today.'"
Exhausted and starving, 10 of the prisoners died before the night was out.
Two barns housed the men. One of the barns still stands. It has two floors and now is filled with yellow straw and fat cows.
"The prisoners took up every inch of space," Alois Deml, recalled clearly, though he was 5 at the time.
"They were very skinny, but there were so many of them."
The prisoners knew they were being moved because the Allies were approaching. Some left their fate in the hands of the Americans and their war partners. Others hid.
"Most of them went under the boards that were the floor of the barn," Johann Deml said. "But the guards had dogs, and you could hear the dogs barking and barking and you knew what would come next."
There were more sounds of pleading.
"It's still in my head today," said the elder Deml, now a 75-year-old farmer who cannot forget what happened when he was a 15-year-old boy.
"I can still hear it, and I can still see the bodies," he said. "I can still see the faces of the dead men as they were piled in a cart with their heads hanging over the edges. It will be with me until I die."
The prisoners who were caught hiding, about 25 of them over the course of the night, were marched to a roundish, shallow depression in the hills less than one mile down the road. There, they were shot. They were covered in dirt, a single shallow grave for all of them.
The U.S. Army arrived two days later on April 23, a Monday. The Nazis and the remaining prisoners were gone.
Like the Neunburg people of the village center, the Deml brothers and their family were initially judged by the Americans as being as bad as the SS guards.
"Of course we knew in the end" just how brutal the SS was, said Johann Deml. "We were there. We didn't know about Flossenburg because we did not leave the farm. Others knew. I know that now."
The family, though, had tried to help the prisoners, the Americans concluded. The family bathed as many men they were allowed to - "They were covered in lice," Alois Deml recalled.
American soldiers ordered the prisoners dug up from that depression in the hills by the Deml's farm. They ordered coffins constructed and individual burial plots dug. And a small funeral was held.
The soldiers found other dead prisoners buried along virtually the entire route from Flossenburg to Neunburg.
They found one body, and soon another body and then another body still. At times they would find three or four men in a single grave.
Then they hiked up another hill, overlooking the village, and they found a few shallow graves filled with 161 bodies.
The Road to Neunburg Continued
60 years later
People here who were born after 1945 can still be touched, directly, by what happened in their town, sometimes when a mother or father or aunt finally releases once-untold memories, or when they listen to people like Rosa Hastreiter.
On April 21, as she lay in bed with the blackout shades down, the shots and screams she heard marked wholesale, rapid murder.
The next morning, as people walked by her house on the way to Sunday Mass, these last 161 victims lay dead along stretches of road. During the day, the bodies were tossed into carts pulled by horses and oxen and carried to the crest of that hill overlooking the village center.
That is where the U.S. soldiers from the 11th U.S. Armored Division and parts of the 3rd Army found them.
The dead were Polish and Hungarian, Romanian and Yugoslavian. All of them were Jews.
The soldiers summoned the village's men to the hill. The Neunburg men were ordered to unearth these dead men. They pulled many from the pits using rope.
The bodies were ghastly. Eyes were gouged out. Heads were caved in. Every man was a sack of bones.
Over the next several days, most of the men of Neunburg, and some of the town's women, were kept on farms and open fields and made to build 161 pine coffins, old-style, with handles sticking from every corner.
Black crepe was ordered attached to the white flags of surrender flapping from Neunburg's windows.
On April 29, the U.S. Army ordered the townspeople to line the cobblestone streets of the village center, though the people were not told why.
The newly built coffins were stacked at a crossroad just west of the town.
Prisoners from the same march, who had now been freed by the Allies, struggled up the hill to where the exhumed bodies lay, and they held Jewish funeral rites.
Then, as McCardell described, the men of the village grabbed the empty coffins and at the order of the U.S. military began their own march, following in the freed prisoners' footsteps, to retrieve the dead.
When there were no men left to carry the bodies -- most of those in town had been drafted into the Germany military -- women and children were enlisted, and they marched up the hill, too.
Each body was placed in a coffin.
Then, single file, the reluctant pallbearers marched through the streets, away from the hill and toward the center of Neunburg, the postcard scenery all around, grand hills, all green, a spider-web network of streams that still sparkle in the glint of the sun.
The twisted bodies of the dead lay in open coffins held aloft on tired Neunburg shoulders.
Through it all, the twisted bodies of the dead lay in open coffins held aloft on tired Neunburg shoulders.
Below, on the village streets, Annemarie Dietrich, age 9 and horrified, had been ordered to stand at the side of a road.
"I was trying to hide behind my mother's dress, holding it with my hand over my eyes," she recalled, and the longer she talked about it, the shorter her breaths became, the closer her eyes to tears.
"The soldiers kept pulling me from behind her and setting me in front, right on the side of the road, to see what we did. But I was a child. Of course, I didn't know. I'd run back behind my mother and they'd grab me by the shoulders and plant me in the front row. I was one meter from the road.
"All I did was cry. I was traumatized for the longest time. I wouldn't leave my mother's skirt.
"In the days after, if my mother was not around, I would cry and say, 'Where is my mother, where is my mother?'"
Her son, Werner Dietrich, listened to his mother as she recalled that day. He had known about the shootings and about the funeral.
He did not know about his mother's involvement, about how she was forced so close to those bodies, held so responsible.
"I had to deal with it all day in my mind and in my heart," the son, Werner Dietrich, said two days after hearing that from his mother.
"All of this about the Nazis, about these darkest days in history, was not close to people like me because of my age.
"Now it is part of me. Soon, when my children are older, it will be part of them."
"I should have talked about it earlier," his mother said, her son at her side. "I'm sorry now that I did not."
Photographs taken by the journalist that day show little girls with hands on their faces.
When the bodies, still in open coffins, reached a cemetery in town, they were placed on the ground, and each person who had lined the streets was now made to walk past these men and to look at them.
The photographs from that time are frozen, but it is not difficult to see the people of Neunburg averting their eyes.
Only some people had known before the funeral why they were being summoned to the streets. But they knew it was going to be a public gathering, so the women wore dresses and nice winter coats, the men all arrived in their good suits, and the children had on their Sunday best.
A message from the Americans was read to the assembled in German. And from the words it is now apparent that, at least for these U.S. soldiers, the funeral was not merely for 161 men murdered in this town but for all those killed in the camps. Equally clear, the people of Neunburg were being held responsible not just for the murders on their land but for the sins of all of Hitler's Germany.
"Look upon the mutilated broken and bloody bodies," the statement said in part. "They are bodies carrying the marks of cruel disease brought about by the wretched treatment they have suffered in your own land.
"They are the bodies that have been so brutally beaten and violated that they are scarcely recognizable as human beings.
"May the memory of these tragic dead rest heavily upon the conscience of every German so long as each of you shall live."
'People were outraged'
Almost everybody in Neunburg on April 23, 1945, was glad the Americans had arrived, according to people who were there, because in a real sense they had liberated the town.
Rudolf Wiesneth, though, has always felt that the U.S. soldiers reacted unreasonably when they discovered the 161 dead men.
He was 16 at the time, is 76 now, and has always thought it wrong that the whole town was held responsible.
He detests what the Nazis did, he said, but he still resents the U.S. soldiers forcing him to carry a body through Neunburg, as if he were one of the SS.
"Of course people were outraged," he said of the treatment of the prisoners, which he said was learned in detail only after the war. "We felt compassion for these poor creatures. But we did not identify with the deeds of the Nazis. We, who had nothing to do with them, had to carry those caskets."
There is also little question, though, that many Germans who were not directly involved in the massacres knew what was happening in places like Flossenburg and Dachau.
"We cannot say that others are to blame. We, as German are all to blame," said Cotheo Maenner, a high school teacher and a curator at the Neunburg museum. He teaches his students in detail what happened here 60 years ago.
"This whole thing that Germans didn't know what was going on is a lie," he said. "That people didn't know all that was going on -- that is true.
"Either way, is there anybody more responsible than the people whose country did this?"
Rosa Hastreiter, after those sounds, after six years of war, was grateful that the Americans had arrived.
She remembers rushing to the building she worked in, mostly handling the phones, and removing the picture that adorned every office, Hitler's.
The morning of the funeral she was ordered to appear at a crossroads on the outskirts of town. She remembers clearly. She wore her nice winter coat.
"I was a pallbearer," she said. "I walked like everybody. I was carrying a dead body, after all, and I remember the boot of the man sticking over the edge of the coffin.
"It was horrible, almost overwhelming, but I remember most thinking not to stumble or not to fall because the body would spill."
The lesson was good, she said.
Wiesneth, sitting next to her, said the funeral was troubling but left him feeling no more responsibility, no guilt.
"I detest what happened to those men, but I was not responsible," he said. "I have never had a dream about the funeral since. It was not my nightmare."
Not unkindly, Hastreiter dismissed his comments with a wave of her hand.
"Everybody was responsible," she said. "I was young, just a young girl, but how could I see these men and not be marked after what they had been through. They even had to die here, so miserably.
"It was genocide," she said, using a word that people here still seem to consciously avoid. "We all can share responsibility if it means no genocide ever again."
Some of the 161 men shot in Neunburg were reclaimed by their families. The others are buried with hundreds of other prisoners killed in the death marches and later found in the Bavarian forest.
They are buried in a four-tiered cemetery on a grassy bluff, beyond the noise of the village center. The graves are in a wooded area, so the leaves make a noise in the breeze, and birds chirp there.
Other than that, not a sound can be heard.
Sun researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.
Commemorative Event on the Liberation of the Concentration Camp Flossenbuerg
April 24, 2005.
Chargé d’Affaires John Cloud (left) and Munich U.S. Consul General Matthew M. Rooney (center) took part in the ceremony to commemorate the liberation of the concentration camp Flossenbürg by soldiers of the 90th U.S. Infantry Division on April 23, 1945. Dr. Jack Terry, (right) survivor of Flossenbürg concentration camp, also participated in the wreath-laying service. Renate Schmidt, Minister for Family, Youth and Senior Citizens represented the German federal government.
Speech by Dr. Jack Terry, a survivor of the Concentration Camp Flossenbuerg:
This past January at the United Nations General Assembly the German Minister for Foreign Affairs, Joschka Fischer said: “Democratic Germany has learned its lesson. The Holocaust has left an indelible mark. The Shoah is the ultimate crime of the 20th Century. We who can listen to the survivors bear a responsibility to recount their story to future generations.”
We each have individual stories – since a story not told is forgotten – mine very briefly is:
Sixty years ago, on April 23, 1945 at 10:50 a.m. the concentration camp in Flossenburg was liberated by soldiers of the 90th Infantry Division of the US Third Army. I was the youngest of the 1523 inmates remaining in the camp and I was still able to walk. The month before was my 15th birthday but I was unaware of the date. The 23rd of April, 1945 was also the saddest day of my life. As I stood on the outside of the gate of the camp a few meters from where we are now, I realized that I belonged nowhere, no one belonged to me, and I belonged to no one. For the first time in four years I felt something other than terror and hunger. For the first time in three years I was able to allow myself to recapture the images of my murdered family: my father in Majdanek, my sister was shot in front of my mother by Unterscharfuhrer Reinhold Feix(an ordinary Friseur from Neustadt in the Sudetenland) he then shot my mother, my brother who was killed by a Ukrainian guard and my second sister was murdered in the so-called Erntefest in October l943 in Poniatow, Poland.
Flossenburg was the third concentration camp which I did not choose.
Is it possible to convey the indiscriminate cruelty, the relentless hunger, the cold, the torture, the cries, the misery, the filth, the exhaustion, the stench, the burning flesh, the hangings, the suffering, the beatings, the horror, the deaths? How do I convey the utter degradation, the complete dehumanization – the dying? Can this be conveyed to future generations? I think not. What can be conveyed is what we have derived from our experiences: how precious freedom is, and I can think of no joy on earth equal to that of regaining the freedom which was taken from us. We also learned what William Blake knew when he wrote that, “Evil has a human heart.” However, evil can only triumph when bystanders are indifferent and do nothing. In addition, we can convey our observation that the veneer of our civilization is so very thin and how an advanced culture and extreme brutality can co- exist.
Although, I left Flossenburg as soon as I could, Flossenburg never left me. For us, former inmates, the events of our past became the foundation of our haunted lives.
Upon my return 10 years ago for the 50th Anniversary commemoration, I was disoriented. The Flossenburg Concentration Camp had been for the most part abandoned and covered-up almost as though it never existed. The place that haunted our memories was treated as though it were an ordinary piece of real-estate. Where the barracks once stood there is a housing community. Children about my age 50 years ago were playing at the very spot I was forced to witness hangings. The appellplatz was no longer an empty quadrangle and on it was a factory attached to the former laundry and kitchen. The Komandantur was divided into low-cost apartments. The rest of what was the camp was turned into an overgrown park with lovely shrubbery and tall trees. For us, former inmates, this was an additional painful trauma. Why was this allowed to happen? Certainly it did not promote the recounting of our story to future generations. Instead, it was a way to deny, cover up and obliterate what this ignominious place had meant to each one of us.
The numbers of individuals from various nations who were murdered and whose ashes form the pyramid in the “Tal des Todes” near the crematorium hardly tell the story of our deaths. It was, I believe, an attempt to deal with the guilt and shame by the generation of Germans in the immediate post-war period. Neglect and denial were not only characteristics of Flossenbuerg but also of towns and cities where the 100 sub-camps had been located. However, it should be noted that Germans have dealt with their WWII past admirably, especially in the past 20 years. It is understandable 60 years after the end of the war for many Germans to feel “enough already” – let’s have closure (Schlussstrich).
However terrible the burden history places on us, history does not go away no matter how much revisionists and New Historians may try. We must therefore be vigilant of those who try to equate and trivialize the historical truths of our experiences.
It is well to remember that the Holocaust defies analogy. It was a unique event not to be diminished in its historical importance. I urge you to be on the right side of history and not allow the horrors of this camp to fade from people’s minds.
During our gathering 10 years ago for the 50th Anniversary our pain was revived when we saw the altered state of this crime scene and many of us complained and vowed not to return. Happily, our voices were heard and our opinions solicited at the 1998 symposium initiated by the Landeszentralle and the Foerderverein of Flossenbuerg for the New Conception for the Memorial. My own and other contribution at the symposium was that, as much as possible, the permanent structures remaining at the site be restored and used for documentation purposes. That the geographic perimeters as much as possible should be restored, and the road (the steps) leading to the quarry and the Messerschmitt factory be retained as part of the contours of our experience.
At the symposium I asked that you rescue us from the impersonal statistical numbers and dreadful anonymity and restore our individual and family names. To give to the tortured person back the human form which had been taken from him in the process of dehumanization.
Flossenburg is rich in granite and many inmates perished extracting it. This granite was the quintessence of our suffering and can be said to be the paradigm of the phrase “Vernichtung durch Arbeit.” It would therefore be fitting to engrave our names upon granite blocks and place them in designated parts of the appellplatz where our tortured souls faced the Oberpfalz winds daily. The names are now available.
Flossenburg can still be and should be a place where our names can serve as a legacy of our individuality to future generations. This will make the Gedenksttaete more meaningful to the young visitor who will see names rather than abstract numbers. And I hope the visitors will take something valuable away to inspire them to make moral choices.
I wish to pay tribute to The Bavarian Government as well as The Federal Government for their support in preserving this memorial site. I want to especially thank the dedicated staff of the Gedenkstaette whose empathy for us, former inmates, has made our returning to this place much easier.
Jakub's World: A Boy's Story of Loss and Survival in the Holocaust
Jakub Szabmacher at age five is a skinny, slightly sulky boy proud of his neat appearance and totally secure in the love of his poor but tightly knit family. His entire village is poor, and as the war draws nearer, their few remaining resources dry up entirely. Though outside help is sought, no help comes - there are simply no funds. Concentration camps open across Germany, one outside Lublin in Majdanek, another in Belzec. Sorbibor is opened; Flossenburg, where Jakub is sent, is the fourth camp to be opened in Germany. He watches truck loads of men leaving his village and comes home to find his father gone. He will lose the remainder of his family in a few short years.
Alicia Nitecki quilts Jakub's (Jack Terry) memories of the war together with private interviews of other Flossenburg concentration camp inmates, private letters, and historical data into an account that reminds us of horror almost beyond comprehension. I had never heard of Flossenburg concentration camp - now I ask myself why I had never heard of not only this camp but so many others. I asked other people I knew, some of them who have studied WWII extensively. Not one of them had heard of Flossenburg, which is a tragedy.
Twice as many people died in Flossenburg as at Dachau; both were death camps - in Flossenburg the method was extermination by work rather than gas. At fourteen, Jakub watches people murdered on a daily basis, men hanged, watches other boys his age go mad. He survives to see the liberation of the camp by Americans and is adopted into one of their families.
In an era in which the term "survivor" often brings to mind a television program touted as "a reality show," this book is tremendously important. It should be part of the required reading in high schools and colleges across this country. It has been said that if we forget history, we are doomed to repeat it; expanding on that, how we remember is as important as keeping the memory alive. This is a five star book.
Walter Winters was born in Berlin, Germany. During the war he was a prisoner in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Gleiwitz, Flossenburg, Oranienburg, Muhldorf, Ganacker, and Landau concentration camps. At Flossenburg Walter was a slave laborer for Siemens.
After liberation, Walter got a job in the American officers' club helping in the kitchen, then was able to emigrate to the United States in 1946 aboard the Marine Flasher. Walter ended up in Chicago, worked for several years with a drug company and eventually owned several small businesses, including a shoe store. Walter and his wife moved to Atlanta to help take care of their grandchildren.
Photograph from the National Archives, courtesy of the USHMM Photo Archives.
Three survivors infected with typhus lie in beds in the hospital barracks in the Flossenbürg concentration camp. (May, 1945)
Prisoners at work in the quarry of the Flossenburg concentration camp.
Mordka (Mordechai) Topel
Mordka (Mordechai) Topel was liberated near Flossenburg (april 1945), and was staying there, and in Neunburg vorm Wald (june, july), where he helped out in the US Army kitchen. he then went to the orphanage at Kloster Indersdorf (aug,sept,oct 1945).
April 28, 2011 Over 30,000 prisoners would die at Flossenburg Concentration Camp before it was liberated in late April 1945, 66 years ago this week. Each one had a story to tell.
Some of the more notable inmates included co-conspirators in the failed plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, codenamed Valkyrie–Rev. Dr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, General Hans Oster, Dr. Karl Sack, Dr. Theodor Strunck and General Friedrich Von Rabenau. As American forces neared the Camp in April 1945, the SS rounded up, then executed the group.
In his book, Battalion Surgeon, author William M. McConahey made note of another specific group to die at the hands of their captors at Flossenburg. “It should be remembered by all Americans that it was here that 15 of our brave, gallant paratroopers were hanged one Christmas Eve,” he wrote. “Their ‘crime’? They hadescaped from a prison camp and they were American paratroopers (whom the Krauts feared and hated). At the war crimes trial in Nurnburg it was testified that atFlossenburg Concentration Camp on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1944, 15 American paratroopers were hanged by the S.S. beside gaily decorated Christmas trees, at a sadistic ‘Christmas party’ for the inmates, who were compelled to watch the exhibition.”
At Flossenburg Concentration Camp, members of the 358th Infantry stare in shock at the seemingly endless pile of shoes, removed from dead prisoners before their bodies were burned-April 1945. (U.S. Army Signal Corps Photo, Courtesy National Archives)
Sadly though, the Flossenburg facility was not where the story would end. With word of the imminent liberation, camp guards and officials fled the grounds, force-marching over 10,000 inmates southeast, toward Dachau. Only those deemed too weak to walk were left behind.
In a 1945 article, as reprinted in John Colby’s War From The Ground Up, Captain James C. McNamara shed light on this sordid trek. “…On one pine-studded knoll outside the village of Nuenberg lay the battered bodies of 161 Polish Jews, shot and beaten to death by SS guards for faltering along the way.
“…The bodies crumpled in the roadside mud bore unmistakable signs of clubbing and shooting.
“…The exodus from the camps of brutality under the supervision of sadistic SS barbarians was a march of death where men were shot on the slightest provocation.
“…One prisoner said a man was left for dead every 10 yards of the hellish route from Flossenberg south to the village of Posing—a marching distance of 125 miles.
“…Scarcely 6,000 survivors of 11,000 men were left to greet the Americans.”
For their crimes against humanity, 47 former Flossenburg officials stood trial in 1946. All but five were found guilty. Fifteen were put to death.
Third Reich in Ruins offers an absolutely extraordinary look at the Flossenburg Concentration Camp: Then and Now.
A Polish prisoner (marked with an identifying patch bearing a "P" for Pole), Julian Noga, at the Flossenbürg concentration camp. Germany, between August 1942 and April 1945.
Crematorium Building at the Flossenbürg Concentration camp
The crematorium building at the Flossenbürg concentration camp. Flossenbürg, Germany, May 1945.
Execution site in the Flossenbürg concentration camp, seen here after liberation of the camp by U.S. armed forces. Flossenbürg, Germany, after May 1945.
General view of the Flossenbürg concentration camp after liberation of the camp by U.S. forces. Flossenbürg, Germany, 1945.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (February 4, 1906 – April 9, 1945)
was a German Lutheran pastor,theologian and martyr. He was a participant in the German resistance movement against Nazismand a founding member of the Confessing Church. He was involved in plans by members of theAbwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler. This led to his arrest in April 1943 and execution by hanging in April 1945, 23 days before the Nazis' surrender. His view of Christianity's role in the secular world has become very influential
In 1935, Bonhoeffer was presented with a much-sought-after opportunity to study non-violent resistance under Gandhi in his ashram, but, perhaps remembering Barth's rebuke, decided to return to Germany in order to head an underground seminary for training Confessing Church pastors in Finkenwalde. As the Nazi suppression of the Confessing Church intensified, Barth was driven back to Switzerland in 1935; Martin Niemöller was arrested in July 1937; and in August 1936, Bonhoeffer's authorization to teach at the University of Berlin was revoked after he was denounced as a "pacifist and enemy of the state" by Theodor Heckel (German: de:Theodor Heckel).
Bonhoeffer's efforts for the underground seminaries included securing necessary funds, and he found a great benefactor in Ruth von Kleist-Retzow. In times of trouble, Bonhoeffer's former students and their wives would take refuge in von Kleist-Retzow's Pomeranian estate, and Bonhoeffer was a frequent guest. Later he fell in love with Kleist-Retzow's granddaughter Maria von Wedemeyer, to whom he became engaged three months before his arrest.
By August 1937, Himmler decreed the education and examination of Confessing Church ministry candidates illegal. In September 1937, the Gestapo closed the seminary at Finkenwalde and by November arrested 27 pastors and former students. It was around this time that Bonhoeffer published his best-known book, The Cost of Discipleship, a study on the Sermon on the Mount, in which he not only attacked "cheap grace" as a cover for ethical laxity but also preached "costly grace".
Bonhoeffer spent the next two years secretly travelling from one eastern German village to another to conduct "seminary on the run" supervision of his students, most of whom were working illegally in small parishes. The von Blumenthal family hosted the seminary in its estate of Groß Schlönwitz). The pastors of Groß Schlönwitz and neighbouring villages supported the education by employing and housing the students (among whom Eberhard Bethge, who later would edit Bonhoeffer's "Letters and Papers from Prison") as vicars in their congregations.
In 1938, the Gestapo banned Bonhoeffer from Berlin. In summer 1939 the seminary was able to move to Sigurdshof, an outlying estate (Vorwerk) of the von Kleist family in Wendisch Tychow. In March 1940 the Gestapo shut down the seminary there following the outbreak of World War II. Bonhoeffer's monastic communal life and teaching at Finkenwalde seminary formed the basis of his books, The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together.
Bonhoeffer's sister Sabine, along with her Jewish-classified husband Gerhard Leibholz and their two daughters, escaped to England by way of Switzerland in September 1940.
In February 1938, Bonhoeffer made an initial contact with members of the German Resistance when his brother-in-law Hans von Dohnanyiintroduced him to a group seeking Hitler's overthrow at Abwehr, German military intelligence.
Bonhoeffer also learned from Dohnanyi that war was imminent and was particularly troubled by the prospect of being conscripted. As a committed pacifist opposed to Nazi regime, he could never swear an oath to Hitler and fight in his army. Not to do so was potentially a capital offence. He worried also about consequences his refusing military service could have for the Confessing Church, as it was a move that would be frowned upon by most Christians and their churches at the time.
It was at this juncture that Bonhoeffer left for the United States in June 1939 at the invitation of Union Theological Seminary in New York. Amid much inner turmoil, he soon regretted his decision despite strong pressures from his friends to stay in the U.S. He wrote to Reinhold Niebuhr: "I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period in our national history with the people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people... Christians in Germany will have to face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose but I cannot make that choice from security." He returned to Germany on the last scheduled steamer to cross the Atlantic.
If I see a madman driving a car into a group of innocent bystanders, then I can't, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe and then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.
I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America...I shall have no right to take part in the restoration of Christian life in Germany after the war unless I share the trials of this time with my people.
Back in Germany, Bonhoeffer was further harassed by the Nazi authorities as he was forbidden to speak in public and was required to regularly report his activities to the police in 1940. In 1941, he was forbidden to print or to publish. In the meantime, Bonhoeffer – a pastor – joined the Abwehr (a German military intelligence organization) which was also the center of the anti-Hitler resistance.
Bonhoeffer presumably knew about various 1943 plots against Hitler through Dohnanyi, who was actively involved in the planning. In the face of Nazi atrocities, the full scale of which Bonhoeffer learned through the Abwehr, he concluded that "the ultimate question for a responsible man to ask is not how he is to extricate himself heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation shall continue to live."
He did not justify his action but accepted that he was taking guilt upon himself as he wrote "when a man takes guilt upon himself in responsibility, he imputes his guilt to himself and no one else. He answers for it...Before other men he is justified by dire necessity; before himself he is acquitted by his conscience, but before God he hopes only for grace." (In this connection, it is worthwhile to recall his 1932 sermon, in which he said: “the blood of martyrs might once again be demanded, but this blood, if we really have the courage and loyalty to shed it, will not be innocent, shining like that of the first witnesses for the faith. On our blood lies heavy guilt, the guilt of the unprofitable servant who is cast into outer darkness.”
Under cover of the Abwehr, Bonhoeffer served as a courier for the German resistance movement to reveal its existence and intentions and, through his ecumenical contacts abroad, to secure possible peace terms with the Allies for a post-Hitler government.
His visits to Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland were camouflaged as legitimate intelligence activities for the Abwehr. In May 1942, he met Anglican Bishop George Bell of Chichester, a member of the House of Lords and an ally of the Confessing Church, contacted by Bonhoeffer's exiled brother-in-law Leibhol; through him feelers were sent to British foreign minister Anthony Eden.
However, the British government ignored these, as it had all other approaches from the German resistance. Dohnanyi and Bonhoeffer were also involved in Abwehr operations to help German Jews escape to Switzerland. It was during this time that Bonhoeffer worked on Ethics and wrote letters to keep up the spirits of his former students. He intended Ethics as his magnum opus, but it remained unfinished when he was arrested.
On April 6, 1943, Bonhoeffer and Dohnanyi were arrested not because of their conspiracy but because of long-standing rivalry between SSand Abwehr for intelligence fiefdom. One of the informers of Abwehr, Wilhelm Schmidhuber, was arrested by the Gestapo for involvement in a private currency affair. In the subsequent investigations the Gestapo uncovered Dohnanyi's operation in which 14 Jews were sent to Switzerland ostensibly as Abwehr agents and large sums in foreign currency were paid to them as compensation for confiscated properties. The Gestapo, which had been looking for information to discredit Abwehr, sensed that they had a corruption case against Dohnanyi and searched his office at Abwehr where they discovered notes revealing Bonhoeffer's foreign contacts and other documents related to the anti-Hitler conspiracy. One of them was a note that discussed plans for a journey by Bonhoeffer to Rome, where he would explain to church leaders why the assassination attempts on Hitler in March 1943 had failed.
Nevertheless, Bonhoeffer's involvement in assassination plots was not known by the Gestapo as Abwehr succeeded in explaining away the most damaging documents as official coded Military Intelligence materials. Dohnanyi and Bonhoeffer were, however, suspected of subverting Nazi policy toward Jews and misusing Abwehr for inappropriate purposes. Bonhoeffer was suspected of evading military call-up, using Abwehr to circumvent Gestapo injunction against public speaking and staying in Berlin, and using Abwehr to further Confessing Church works, amongst other charges.
For a year and a half, Bonhoeffer was imprisoned at Tegel military prison awaiting trial. There he continued his work in religious outreach among his fellow prisoners and guards. Sympathetic guards helped smuggle his letters out of prison to Eberhard Bethge and others, and these uncensored letters were posthumously published in Letters and Papers from Prison. A guard named Corporal Knobloch even offered to help him escape from the prison and "disappear" with him, and plans were made for that end. But Bonhoeffer declined it fearing Nazi retribution on his family, especially his brother Klaus and brother-in-law who were also imprisoned.
After the failure of the July 20 Plot on Hitler's life in 1944 and the discovery in September 1944 of secret Abwehr documents relating to the conspiracy, Bonhoeffer's connection with the conspirators was discovered. He was transferred from the military prison in Berlin Tegel, where he had been held for 18 months, to the detention cellar of the house prison of the Reich Security Head Office, the Gestapo's high-security prison. In February 1945, he was secretly moved to Buchenwald concentration camp, and finally toFlossenbürg concentration camp.
On April 4, 1945, the diaries of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the Abwehr, were discovered, and in a rage upon reading them, Hitler ordered that the Abwehr conspirators be destroyed. Bonhoeffer was led away just as he concluded his final Sunday service and asked an English prisoner Payne Best to remember him to Bishop George Bell of Chichester if he should ever reach his home: "This is the end — for me the beginning of life.
Bonhoeffer was condemned to death on April 8, 1945, by SS judge Otto Thorbeck at a drumhead court-martial without witnesses, records of proceedings or a defence in Flossenbürg concentration camp. He was executed there by hanging at dawn on April 9, 1945, just two weeks before soldiers from the United States 90th and 97th Infantry Divisions liberated the camp, three weeks before the Soviet capture ofBerlin and a month before the capitulation of Nazi Germany. Like other executions associated with the July 20 Plot, the execution was particularly brutal. Bonhoeffer was stripped of his clothing and led naked into the execution yard, where he was hanged with thin wire for death by strangulation. Hanged with Bonhoeffer were fellow conspirators Admiral Wilhelm Canaris; Canaris' deputy General Hans Oster; military jurist General Karl Sack; General Friedrich von Rabenau; businessman Theodor Strünck; and German resistance fighter Ludwig Gehre. Bonhoeffer's brother, Klaus Bonhoeffer, and his brothers-in-law Hans von Dohnanyi and Rüdiger Schleicherwere executed elsewhere later in the month.
The camp doctor who witnessed the execution wrote: “I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer ... kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.
- February 4, 1906 – April 9, 1945
MARIA VON WEDEMEYER - FIANCE OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who resisted Hitler and his Nazi regime, was engaged to Maria von Wedemeyer. Just weeks after their announcement, the groom-to-be was arrested.
Flossenbürg Guard Elfriede Förster
Ausweis Nr. 289 was issued to the "Aufseherin" (guard) Elfriede Förster, born 18 May 1919 (which means she must have been in her early twenties when she became a member of the SS and KL guard).
The text says that she is allowed to carry weapons while on duty in the camp and that all other government authorities are supposed to help her! The document is signed (?) by the commander of the Konzentrations-lager (KL or concentration camp) Flossenbürg who was in the rank of a SS-Obersturmführer.
The ID photo has been removed, probably from Elfriede herself in or after 1945 because it was not very advantageous to be recognized as a former guard in a Nazi concentration camp but about two third of the official KL Flossenbürg rubber stamp is still there and Elfriede's original signature.
On the back of this very rare document it says that the commander of Flossenbürg concentration camp has to be informed immedately in case that the owner of this document should have an accident.
The infamous stone quarry (which is still in use today!)
The U,S. Army a few weeks after the July Bomp Plot and other resistors were executed reached the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp (April 23). This boy is one of the survivors they found.
The caption of this wire service news photograph read, "UNRRA cares for European homeless children, Kloster Inderdorph, Germany: An old nunnery some 25 miles north of Munich now houses some 200 'D.P.' children of all nationalities. , who are being cared for by Team 182 of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.
Most of the children are truly stateless and may never find their relatives or former homes again, some being in doubt even of their nationality. Since the Germans had non use for younger children, there is a complere absence of of boys and girls between 3 and ...." [The rest of the caption is missing.]
The photograph taken November 7, 1945, shows UNRRA workers assisting a boy found at the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp when it was liberated by the U.S. Army. Unfortunately we do not know the boy's name or story.
In Freiberg in December 1943, preparations began for a subcamp of KZ Flossenbürg to house an outside detail at the Arado-Flugzeugwerke (Arado Aircraft Factory). The planning and construction of this housing subcamp is a clear example of the collaboration between the armaments industry, the SS, and the Ministry of Armaments.
The SS approved the application for the allocation of a prisoner work-detail that Arado had submitted within the context of the Jaegerstab's (Fighter Staff's) measures. In its building application, Arado was represented by a building commissioner of the Reich Ministry for Armaments and War Production (RMfRuK) based in Dresden. The Reich Industry Group (the lobbying organization for the armaments industry) for the Land of Saxony, Regional Office Dresden, undertook the planning of the subcamp.
Bureaucratic hurdles delayed the construction of the subcamp. When the first transport arrived on August 31, 1944, with 249 primarily Polish Jewish women and girls from Auschwitz -- whom the Flossenbürg commandant assigned prisoner numbers 53,423 through 53,671 -- the barracks were not yet complete and the prisoners had to be lodged in the empty halls of a former porcelain factory.
The second transport arrived on September 22, 1944, with 251 women from Auschwitz, also primarily Polish Jews, who were assigned prisoner numbers 53,672 through 53,922. The third transport was registered on October 12, 1944, delivering 512 Jewish women and girls -- assigned prisoner numbers 53,923 through 54,435 -- to Freiberg.
This transport included 180 Czechs, 127 Slovaks, 91 Germans, 28 Yugoslavs, 22 Dutch, 15 Hungarians, 6 Poles, 1 Italian, 1 Russian, and 1 American, as well as 21 stateless women and 9 whose nationalities have not yet been determined.
The fact that the prisoners from each of the three transports were assigned consecutive numbers indicates that the transports were completely coordinated with the Flossenbürg main camp beforehand. In total, there were 1,015 women assigned to the outside detail at Freiberg. A strength report on January 31, 1945, still listed 996 women in the Freiberg camp.
The birth years of prisoners in the subcamp population were distributed as follows:
Before 1900: 12
Information unavailable: 29
According to concurring reports from many of the prisoners, they were personally selected at Auschwitz by Dr. Josef Mengele for deportation to Freiberg. He decided who went on the transport, who stayed at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, and who was to be murdered immediately.
Hana L., a Czech prisoner, reported: “They always assembled in groups of five, followed by the high SS marching by in their perfect uniforms. It was Dr. Mengele personally who sorted the people into those capable of work and prisoners destined for gassing. As we were both dressed in a good coat and an anorak, he signaled my cousin Vera and me to the right and my mother to the left, which meant to the gas. …
My mother said in good German, 'Please, these are my children.' Mengele now also signaled my mother to the right. We did not suspect that to the right meant work and life and to the left meant gas and death. …But the great miracles were still to come. They took all of our things away, shaved our hair, and everyone received a dress and wooden clogs or other shoes. …Until I die I will never forget the feeling of the cold on my shaved head. Without hair -- that is a complete degradation for a woman. We were so many that the SS did not manage to tattoo all of us. …Still in October we were put on a transport toward Germany. That was like a prize. Thus we reached Freiberg in Saxony.”
In contrast to the wretched barracks in the women's camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the lodgings at the factory in Freiberg -- which were heated and, to some extent, dry -- appeared considerably better to the women. Anneliese W., then 16 years old, said of the barracks: “It appeared to be a good change from Auschwitz. We slept only two to a bed, had pillows and a type of blanket.”
Several women reported on the employment, such as Katarina L, a Slovakian prisoner: “We worked in two shifts, 12 hours each, as heavy laborers building airplane wings. As we were not skilled workers in aircraft construction, we also made mistakes, which were answered with slaps in the face.”
Marie S., a Czech, described the relationship between the prisoners and the German civil workers: “My work consisted mostly of riveting the 'small wing' with another female prisoner. There was no foreman around, only an inspector who came by daily to check whether we had worked well. Once I asked him where we were. To be sure[,] he answered me, but only briefly, ['I]n Freiberg['] and added that he was forbidden to speak with gypsies. When I then said to him that I was a pharmacist and my husband was a doctor, he convinced himself with the help of medications that I had not lied. He then muttered, 'The fascists have deceived me.' After that he always told us what was reported from London.”
Hana St., another Czech prisoner, recounted a similar exchange: “This conversation appears strange, almost like a joke, but I find it very instructive as it is probably something like a reflection of the foggy thinking, brought about by the Nazi propaganda haze, of so many 'little people' in Germany at that time. …
This dialogue with Foreman Rausch took place in the first days: with hand motions and no words he sent me to get some tool, but I didn't bring the right one. Furious, he grabbed me by the dress and beat me against the scaffolding. I was indignant and told him that when he wanted something he would have to explain it to me as I had never before worked in a factory. Rausch was surprised that this creature -- resembling a scarecrow -- [had] addressed him, and even in German.
He asked me where I had worked and what type of work I had actually done. In another conversation we talked about the concentration camp and I explained to him that I was sent there as a Jew. To that[,] foreman Rausch replied in amazement[,] 'But the Jews are black!' I had blue eyes and[,] despite a shaved head[,] was without doubt a dirty blond[e] with a light complexion. And when I asked him -- I was so impudent -- if he knew what concentration camps are, he answered me[,] 'Yes, that's where various elements are trained to work.' I then informed him that we were brought from Auschwitz to Freiberg.
I told him that we all had studied and worked normally and that among us were a number of highly educated women, JDs, PhDs, holders of master's degrees (Magister), doctors, professors, teachers, etc.; that I myself, at that time 23 years old, [had] completed my diploma at a classical high school in 1939 and later worked as a qualified infant nurse and child care professional. Ever since that conversation Foreman Rausch treated me well.”
But the testimony Herta B., a German Jew, provided during her witness examination differed greatly: “Zimmerman was the foreman in an airplane factory at Freiberg. …[He] had a group of about twenty prisoners to supervise. He repeatedly abused me physically. He threw shop tools, which I was required to bring him, at my back, or he tore the tool from my hand and beat me with it.” The foreman described here is likely the same one about whom other female prisoners reported: “He screamed, 'What, you claim to be a teacher? You piece of dirt!' and once again the hammer flew.”
When the female prisoners were transferred to the still unfinished barracks in December 1944, they faced considerably worse living conditions. With bare feet and inadequate clothing, they were forced daily to walk half an hour in deep snow to the factory. Some also had to go to the Hildebrand munitions factory. The cold and wet concrete barracks, the brutality of the SS female guards, the physically draining work, and malnourishment soon claimed the lives of a number of prisoners. Though only five deaths were recorded in SS documents, the actual number may be higher.
Women who arrived at Freiberg pregnant and whose condition became apparent once they were there suffered especially. Priska Loewenbein (Lomova), a Slovak prisoner, gave birth to her daughter Hana on April 12, 1945, two days before Freiberg was evacuated. Other women gave birth during the evacuation transport or shortly after arriving at Mauthausen.
Female SS guards, some of whom were recruited from the Freiberg area and some of whom came with the prisoners from Auschwitz, supervised the women. SS Unterscharfuehrer Richard Beck was in command at the camp and oversaw 27 SS Unterfuehrer and SS men, in addition to the females guards.
After work was halted on March 31, 1945, the prisoners at Freiberg were left on their own in the barracks. Food rations were reduced.
Lisa M., a Czech prisoner, reported on the evacuation: “On April 14, 1945, there was a sudden departure. We were loaded into open cars at the train station and traveled westward into the protectorate, passing train station signs with familiar city names. The nights were cold and sometimes it snowed or rained. Only sometimes did we receive food. En route we encountered similar transports to ours almost daily.
Then we had a long stop in Horní Bríza and were transferred into closed cars. The people of the town brought us something to eat. We were supposed to be brought back to our original camp, Flossenbürg. We owe our thanks to a brave station manager who despite threats held up our train. We traveled back in the direction of Budweis. No one knew what happened in the other car.
Once a day the car was opened and someone shouted the command '[O]ut with the dead.' We noticed that the train changed direction. On April 29 we stood in the train station at Mauthausen. Half starved we dragged ourselves through the town.
At a fountain we wanted to at least drink something, but the locals chased us away und threw stones at us. In the camp we found out rather quickly that the gas chambers were already out of action. Hungarian women who had come there a few days earlier than we did died there. On May 5 we were liberated by the US Army.”
U.S. Army Liberates Flossenburg
April 11, 2008
As Adolph Hitler's Thousand Year Reich crumbled under the Allied military onslaught, German concentration camps (Konzentrationlager, or KZ in German) began to fall to the advancing armies. Since 1942, rumors of German death camps were filtered to the Western Allies via Switzerland. For many, it was inconceivable that Germany had undertaken a program of genocide against European Jewry. Some grainy photos were smuggled out, along with eyewitness accounts of mass shootings, but still many in the West were skeptical.
In the East, the steamrolling Red Army overran the first of the death camps in Poland in July, 1944, starting with Majdanek, near Lublin. Yet, surprisingly, many in the West still remained skeptical, dismissing Russian eyewitness accounts and photographs of the camp as "Soviet propaganda."
It was, however, the drama of liberation, more than any other aspect of the Holocaust (or Shoah in Hebrew), that brought home to the West the horror of Hitler's Final Solution, ending once and for all the false belief that stories of Nazi atrocities were exaggerated Allied propaganda.
Flossenburg concentration camp, located outside Weiden, Germany, close to the Czech border, was established in 1938, mainly for political prisoners. Once the war began, however, other prisoners and Jews were housed there as well. At its peak, the camp held between 5,000 and 18,000 prisoners under the control of Hitler's dreaded Schutzstaffel (SS). While Flossenburg is not as well-known as the more infamous camps of Dachau, Treblinka, and Auschwitz, it was nonetheless an important cog in the Nazis overall machinery in the Final Solution.
At Flossenburg, members of the German Resistance to Hitler -- such notables as Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris (former head of the German Abwehr or military intelligence), and Major General Hans Oster, to name a few -- were executed on the orders of Reichsfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler on April 9, 1945. Canaris and Oster were directly implicated in the unsuccessful plot to kill Hitler on July 20, 1944, and they paid with their lives.
As the Allied advance drew near to Flossenburg in April, 1945, the SS began forcibly evacuating prisoners fit to move to other camps still under German control. One former French prisoner, Marcel Cadet, reported that one man was left for dead for every 10 yards along the 125-mile evacuation route from Flossenburg south to the village of Posing.
At approximately 10:30 hours on April 23, 1945, the first U.S. troops of the 90th Infantry Division arrived at Flossenburg KZ,. They were horrified at the sight of some 2,000 weak and extremely ill prisoners remaining in the camp and of the SS still forcibly evacuating those fit to endure the trek south. Elements of the 90th Division spotted those ragged columns of prisoners and their SS guards. The guards panicked and opened fire on many of the prisoners, killing about 200, in a desperate attempt to effect a road block of human bodies. American tanks opened fire on the Germans as they fled into the woods, reportedly killing over 100 SS troops.
Additionally, elements of the 97th Infantry Division participated in the liberation. As the 97th prepared to enter Czechoslovakia, Flossenburg concentration camp was discovered in the division's sector of the Bavarian Forest. Brigadier General Milton B. Halsey, the commanding general of the 97th Division, inspected the camp on April 30, as did his divisional artillery commander, Brigadier General Sherman V. Hasbrouck. Hasbrouck, who spoke fluent German, directed a local German official to have all able-bodied German men and boys from that area help bury the dead. The 97th Division performed many duties at the camp upon its liberation. They assisted the sick and dying, buried the dead, interviewed former prisoners and helped gather evidence against former camp officers and guards for the upcoming war crimes trials.
One eyewitness U.S. Soldier, Sgt. Harold C. Brandt, a veteran of the 11th Armored Division, who was on hand for the liberation of not just one but three of the camps, Flossenburg, Mauthausen, and Gusen, when queried many years after the war on his part in liberating them, stated that "it was just as bad or worse than depicted in the movies and stories about the Holocaust. . . . I can not describe it adequately. It was sickening. How can other men treat other men like this'"
Leslie A. Thompson, Chaplain (Lt. Col.), United States Army (Ret). 14 January, 1989
I am a retired Army chaplain with twenty-six years of service dating from 1940-1967. I served in Europe in World War II and in Korea and Japan during the Korean conflict. In this account I am trying to recall my memories of contacts with the German concentration camp at Flossenburg, Germany, in the closing days of World War II.
In writing this account I have had to rely on memory and several snapshots which were given to me by a young soldier who happened to have a camera available. My notes were lost in moving about; and in the closing days of the war, we were moving very fast and I did not have time to make an adequate account of happenings. At the time, I regarded my contacts with Flossenburg as a normal part of military duty, although the shock of seeing this concentration camp at firsthand and the memory of it is unforgettable.
I was the Division chaplain of the 97th Infantry Division which was in combat near the Czechoslovakian border, later crossing the border to Cheb and Pilsen in Czechoslovakia.
Since retirement from Army service in 1967, I have become interested in reading the books written by and about Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In several of them I found references to Bonhoeffer having been put to death by hanging in the Flossenburg concentration camp on April 9, 1945.
My interest in this changed from a wartime event to a very personal experience having great significance. A dedicated, widely known Christian pastor had been killed by the Nazi regime. An interesting account of the death of Bonhoeffer is given in the closing chapter of the book Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Letters and Papers from Prison, edited By Eberhard Bethge and published by the MacMillan Company (paper edition).
In April, 1945, the 97th Division Headquarters moved to Wunsiedel, Germany, and the Division combat teams took up positions along the Czechoslovakian border. Division Rear, the service section of Division headquarters, was located at Weiden. A day or two after arrival at Weiden, the Jewish chaplain of XII Corps visited the chaplain's sect ion. The news had come that a concentration camp had been liberated in our combat area.
This was at Flossenburg, a few miles from Weiden. I regret that I do not remember the chaplain's name. The Jewish chaplain, along with my assistant, Ervin Royse, and I drove to the camp at Flossenburg. I expected to find some of our troops in charge, but none were there due to the fact that the camp had just been liberated.
We found a Jewish lad of about thirteen or fourteen years of age who had been a prisoner. Fortunately, he and our Jewish chaplain spoke in Yiddish, which became our language of contact. Since this young boy seemed to be the only child around, I supposed the German guards had not harmed him. He was nicely dressed and not emaciated as the other prisoners. This young boy became our tour guide.
We saw one of the barracks where the prisoners stayed. He told of sleeping on the bare wooden bunks. Sometimes the person sleeping next to him had died in the night. He told us that there were prisoners marked for death by starvation, but in whom the will to live was strong, and these were eliminated by holding their heads under water.
He showed us the path from the main buildings where the prisoners had to remove their clothes before walking down a number of steps into a small open area where they had placed the gallows. Near this were buildings in which they stacked the bodies until they had time to burn them. There was a stack o£ many bodies here.
Near this I observed a large cistern-like area with an opening of about six or eight feet in diameter. The furnaces were nearby. Looking down, I saw that it was almost full of small bones. I realized that this was the remains of all the bodies of persons who had been cremated. I wondered how many thousands of bodies had been cremated in this manner. As I looked down, I prayed that God would have mercy on those who had been so mercilessly treated.
While at the camp, we toured the working area where the prisoners had been forced to manufacture wooden parts for airplanes. This was a small camp compared to the size of Dachau and the larger camps. It had the worst reputation of all as a death camp. It seems to have been under the control of the Gestapo who were committed to killing Jews and enemies of the State as were the SS controlled camps.
Flossenburg was one of the eighteen camps in Germany. The total number of concentration camps was 146. The small number of camps in Germany in comparison to the total number is noted. Two days later a mass burial ceremony was held for the unburied dead. The chosen site was a vacant area in the town of Flossenburg. The Jewish chaplain gave the ceremony for the Jewish persons, the Catholic ceremony was given by Chaplain John Tivenan, and T gave the Protestant ceremony.
The townspeople were ordered to attend by the American military in charge. I was aware that they attended unwillingly. I remember that it was a spring day with an invigorating coolness The sky was partly cloudy and nature seemed to be awakening after winter napping. I received word that the emaciated prisoners remaining in the camp were put in the temporary care of a surrendering German medical unit.
On May 9, 1945, the war was declared ended. Through the years I have wondered about the people who were so cruelly put to death. At the time I was in Flossenburg, I regarded my participation in the ceremony at the burial of the victims of the concentration camp as part of my military duty, but after my retirement and Later return to my home city of Springfield, Missouri, in January of 1970, I began reading books written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
I found his books strongly challenging. As I read about his life, I read that he had been a prisoner of the Nazis and that he had been put to death April 9, 1945, at the Flossenburg concentration camp. On learning this, my participation in the burial ceremony became a very personal experience, as this happened just a few days after April 9. I do not know if the Bonhoeffer body was buried in the mass grave or whether the body had been cremated and the ashes put in the hole in the ground where it seemed so many other ashes had been disposed of.
My prayers, however, included all who perished there. I prayed that God in His infinite wisdom would bless and receive to Himself these souls who had been so cruelly put to death and those who had resisted the Nazi barbarism. The life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a strong testimonial to his dedication to serve his Heavenly Father. A brief summary follows:
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born in Breslau on February 4, 1906, of distinguished parents. He studied at Tubingen and Berlin Universities. In 1930 he attended Union Theological Seminary in New York for a year. He pastored churches in London before returning to Germany in 1935. On May 29-31, 1934, the Confessional Evangelical Church met in Barmen with members of the Lutheran, Reformed and United Churches present. The Confession reaffirmed their desires to stand together in their Confession of Jesus Christ as "the way, the truth and the life." They reaffirmed that Jesus Christ was the head of the church. They rejected the effort of the State to rule over, control and dominate the church. In other words, they rejected Hitler and the Nazi Party. It was a courageous statement against the excesses that were being perpetuated. Bonhoeffer enthusiastically supported the concept of the confessing church and worked as one of its leaders. He is credited with effectively keeping the conference on track and from turning it into an ineffectual discussion.
Bonhoeffer made a lecture tour in America in 1939. His friends urged that he not return to Germany, but he wanted to return to support the confessing church and the Resistance Movement.
Through his brother-in-law, Hans von Dohnanyi, he learned of the conspiracy to overthrow the Nazi government which involved Generals Werner von Fritsch, Ludwig Beck and several prominent government officials. Bonhoeffer came to believe that his ideas of pacifism were inadequate and that it would take a resistance movement to free Germany and the world from the inhuman and criminal activity of Hitler and the Nazi Party; so at the insistence of his sister and brother-in-law, he joined the conspiracy against Hitler.
The Resistance Movement is credited with many attempts on the life of Hitler. One was on March 13, 1943, when General vonTreackow and an aide planted a bomb on Hitler's private plane. The detonator failed and the bomb was discovered. Another attempt was on March 20, 1943. Colonel Rudolf von Gertsdorff planned to detonate a bomb close to Hitler at the Zeughaus in Berlin. Hitler left the hall before the bomb exploded. On April 5, 1943, Bonhoeffer with his sister Christel and her husband Hans von Dohnanyi were arrested and jailed in Tegel, a military prison.
The most serious attempt of the resistance group to which Bonhoeffer belonged failed on July 20, 1944. The bomb left Hitler dazed and slightly injured. Five collaborators were executed. In the investigation, implicating documents and interrogations of prisoners under torture indicated a nationwide network. Hitler became convinced of this and gave orders that their trials be prolonged in order that they might find .other conspirators. After Tegel, Bonhoeffer was transferred from one Gestapo prison to another in Berlin, Buchenwald, Schonberg, and finally Flossenburg, and all contact with the outside world was severed.
On Sunday, April 8, 1945, Pastor Bonhoeffer conducted a service of worship. As he ended his last prayer, two men came for him. He spoke to an English officer, "This is the end, but for me it is the beginning of life." The next day, April 9, 1945, he was hanged in Flossenburg. Among those who died with Bonhoeffer were fellow participants in the Resistance Movement: Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Major General Hans Oster, Judge Advocate General Carl Sack, Captain Ludwig Gehre, and a man named Strunk. Also executed on the same day was Bonhoeffer's brother-in-law, Hans von Dohnanyi at Sachsenhausen. It is difficult to understand the persistence of revenge at the time the German armies were falling apart. The allies were rapidly advancing, resistance was crumbling. Huppenkothen, a magistrate, was sent from Berlin with instructions to conduct a summary trial and to execute Canaris, Sack, Oster, Gehre, Strunk and Bonhoeffer, all prisoners in Flossenburg. The prisoners were ordered to remove their clothing and were led down the steps under the trees to the secluded place of execution. Naked under the scaffold, Bonhoeffer knelt for the last time to pray. Within five minutes, his life was ended. Memorial services for Bonhoeffer were held at Holy Trinity Church in London on July 27, 1945, at the instigation of the Bishop of Chichester. The announcement of this service over the radio was the first word of Bonhoeffer's death that his family had received. Another memorial service was held in Berlin on April 9, 1946.
On Easter Sunday, 1953, the pastors of Bavaria unveiled in the church in Flossenburg a tablet with the simple inscription: "Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a witness of Jesus Christ among his brethren. Born February 4, 1906, in Breslau. Died April 9, 1945, in Flossenburg.
This was my brief contact with the liberation of the camp at Flossenburg. It was a small camp compared to Auschwitz, Dachau or Buchenwald. I do not know how to estimate the number of persons killed there. I would estimate it at several hundred thousand. Auschwitz is estimated as having killed 2,000,000. At one period, 24,000 Jews a day were received for mass laughter.
After hostilities ended and the 97th Division completed its mission in Czechoslovakia, with the capture of Cheb and Pilsen, the Division was pulled back to Bamberg. At this time one of the regimental chaplains requested that a Jewish soldier be taken to Munich to visit his high school. He had managed to escape and make his way into the United States where he joined the U.S. Army. He had pleasant memories of his high school days. I desired to visit the chaplain of our next higher headquarters (y Corps) and arranged for Chaplain Edwin Settle, the Jewish soldier whose name I cannot remember, my assistant, Ervin Royse, and I to drive to Munich.
First, we left the young man off at his high school. After a visit at Corps Headquarters, we returned for our passenger. He was disappointed. He had expected a pleasant visit to his school, but especially was he displeased as he met one of the teachers he had known before, and he was a Nazi. We asked him if he wanted to find anyone else. He said he would very much like to visit his former music teacher.
We drove him to the residence, and he invited Chaplain Settle and me to go in with him. His music teacher was genuinely glad to see him. They had a pleasant visit. He asked her if she would play the piano for him. She graciously refused, then held up her hands to show us that they were gnarled and twisted.
She explained that she had been forced to work in a factory. She then asked her former student to play for her, and she led us into an average sized room in which was a large grand piano. The young man seated himself and played. I listened and thought how the lovely bond of music could reunite two people after all that they had both suffered. It was a moving experience, and I never forgot it.
World War II was an expensive war, as to cost of lives and money. It was more expensive in its damage to the human spirit of mankind. The volume of hatred generated and released in the world affects us even today. Hate used as a political weapon is dangerous to the future of mankind. Somehow we must learn to use love as an instrument in our lives and relationships. May God forgive us and help us to build our lives. It is the only way. We cannot afford another Holocaust.
Fernand Van Horen
Fernand Van Horen, a Belgium artist and inmate of KZ Esterwegen wrote:
"...on March 10th, 1945, we are all sent to a death camp [Flossenbürg]. The conditions of life are incredible. Nobody can imagine the bestiality and the cruelty of the SS guards. It is really hell here! And there are very few survivors of this hell!
We entered a barrack and are immediately faced with what will be common for us in the next months; an inmate is beaten to death with a whip. We don't know the reason why this poor fellow is beaten to death. Torture, shootings, hangings, all of this is just normal life in Flossenbürg. The most common threat of the SS is Krematorium [crematorium] !"
In Memoriam: Prisoner N°423, Theodor Aichholzer
Theodor Aichholzer was lucky to survive long years of imprisonment in concentration camps. Maybe it was God's planning, so that he had the opportunity to do what he had done throughout the time he spent in the KZ: trying to save lives without consideration of his own life.
His “luck” began in the granite quarry, where a big and heavy block falls on his feet and squashed one of his toes. This happened because he was condemned to four month special hard work in the Strafkompanie[punish company] for nothing. The forced labour in the quarry of Flossenbürg was already enough for most inmates to come to death, but the work in the Strafkompanie could not be compared with anything else.
Fritz Selbmann [prisoner n° 81], former minister in the German Democratic Republic and inmate in Sachsenhausen and Flossenbürg, wrote in his book:
"…the labour in this Strafkomapanie like in other camps is hardest deadly slave work. The prisoners primarily are employed in transportation of stones. The stones are carried on the back or moved in barrows from one side to the other in the quarry. All work is done running. From morning to evening with a short break at noon , the prisoners run through the quarry carrying the heavy stones or pull the heavy barrows. There is no time to relax or for a rest… the guardian is a killer without conscience, SS Rottenführer Woitach from the Sudetenland and Henlein movement… he has a interminable hate against political prisoners… he is a killer with heart and soul…every time the prisoners pass him by he hits them with a bat…… every morning at dawn the torture starts again. One has horror of what the new day will bring again..." (Fritz Selbmann: Die lange Nacht, 1961)
Working in the Strafkompanie with a smashed toe was impossible so Theodor decided to visit the camps doctor, which almost was a very bad idea and often ended in the crematorium in similar conditions. A prisoner who were infirm, sick or incapable of work was without value and was in general recommended for extermination by the head of Abteilung V [division 5], the Standortarzt (Chief MD, direct under Amtsgruppe D in Oranienburg. Under his command were the dentists, doctors, chemists and medical orderlies).
But Theodor had no choice. To stay in the quarry in that condition would have lead without doubt to his end. After visiting the Krankenrevier [medical block] the doctor gave him a 3 day vacation ticket, from which Theodor said: “this could be compared with winning a lotteries jackpot today”. But be aware, often this ticket was given only to cheat the poor prisoners and one was called a few moments later and the ticket given was cancelled.
So happened, the doctor let call Theodor again – he thought that he had lost his ticket. One can only try to imagine the thoughts and feelings a prisoner had in that moment "My god - ticket cancelled? - With my hurt feet I can not work in the quarry! - Now what? - Will they kill me now? - Is this the end?"
But the doctor asked what he can do and so he answered: everything. A paper was thrown over the table and he were asked what that paper was. It was a prescription but not valid for some reason. Theodor gave the correct answer and from now on he worked as a Krankenrevierschreiber [writer] in the same medical block with a new given nickname: Mistbiene [manure-bee]. In this position, although not with a status of a Kapo, he had a certain power within theKrankenrevier which he used up to the utmost possible limit.
For example every day when the prisoners came back from the quarry, when new prisoners arrived or when prisoners were already on their way to execution, Theodor stood at the fence of theKrankenrevier and selected prisoners which were in severe physical conditions and needed urgently medical attention or mentioned that this or that prisoner still would be a valid worker after medical treatment and a short rest.
One of them was Alfons Gorbach, former canceller from Austria [1961 - 1964], which was a political [red-winkel] prisoner in KZ Flossenbürg 1944 and had a severe disability. His right leg was amputated after be wounded on Nov 5, 1917 during the First World War. Securely he would have had not survived the forced labour in Flossenbürg without help. Theodor did not know him at that time, for him he was an inmate like so many others who needed immediate help to save his life.
If one of the sadistic wardens would have get knowledge about a prisoner with a wooden leg, one can easily imagine what would have happened to this guy. But not all wardens were like the work supervisor of the Strafkompanie SS Rottenführer Woitach so they need to be mentioned too, because not all of them were bad.
In March 1940 the wardens from the 2. warden company were not from the SS, but members of the Reichs-Kriegerbund [state-warrior union] (declaration from Karl Neimann SS Hauptsturmführer, Oslo-Akershus Jan 9, 1946 Gef. Nr. 4585 B II FS 4). They and the regular SS troops [Waffen-SS] were strict but just, although a lot of them fall into the same behaviour after being a short time in the camp. A huge difference in prisoner treatment could be observed between them and the SS-Totenkopf-Sturmbanns of Flossenbürg. They were likely more ready to treat the prisoners with cruelty and in dreadful manner.
The centre of real terror was present in the command line of the Abteilung III [division 3]. TheSchutzhaftlagerführer [commander of the prisoners], in representation of the KZ commander, and immediate superior of the prisoners in conjunction with his SS men and the Kapos decided over life and death depending on their daily whim.
And Theodor said that there was a third generation of wardens, with a great part of volunteers, perverse, mind distorted and despotic people from Sudetenland and Austria, which could not be compared with nobody. When life in the camp had only little value, with them the value was reduced to nothing. Their behaviour against the inmates had reached the top of what mankind can do to it self.
Pater Johann Maria Lenz, inmate N°14233 of KZ Dachau wrote in his book - Christus in Dachau - about the Kapos a valid statement for all concentration camps:
" ... for inferior humans there were many reasons, to get a status as a Kapo. Such a reason was the ‘cyclist politics' - bow to the superiors and be able to trample on the inferiors... also sadism hardly found a better opportunity to out-rave itself. Furthermore the desire to command and to be important - school master instincts and the need for being an authority... we proletarians! and in the camp?... if they succeeded to creep up only one stage over the others - immediately they transformed to malicious and fastidious Lagerbonzen [Kapos]... nowhere in the camp, the internal human being revealed himself so much as under the “big bosses”… who was not a mental nobleman, rapidly and shameless sunk down into the depth of the fierceness ... "
An example of what the SS wardens were capable to do is that on Christmas Day 1944 they hung several innocent russian officers beside a big glittering Christmas tree on gallows especially built up there and prisoners were forced to sing Christmas songs beside that tree and at the same time observe the hunged men.
On January 15, 1945 there were 2564 male and 515 female wardens (Bundesarchiv Abteilungen Potsdam, Mikrofilm Nr. 14428). Their number increased significantly after the evacuation of the KZ Auschwitz and Buchenwald up to and over 4000 wardens.
But there were also some of the SS wardens which prefered to be transfered to the front line with a possible death in battle, before they had to observe and be a part of what happened here. By the way it must be mentioned that also not all Kapos were cruel. Especially the Austrian Kapos did in general not live on cost of the prisoners instead acted as there protectors. Karl Pfeiffer prisoner n° 305 from Vienna was one of the good guys. He was block eldest on Block 2 where Theodor was put up.
Between Theodor and Karl Pfeiffer a certain friendship developed. Mutual help benefited both in the concentration camp. Even 25 years after liberation of KZ Flossenbürg, Theodor received a letter from Karl asking him for help:
“Dear Theodor, my best wishes to you and your dear family. Many years I have not seen you… I am 70 years old, very sick and I am now not able to work and have only a small income... I have applied for indemnification of imprisoning in the KZ, but my application was denied because 'Arolsen' certified me a green winkel… I had a red winkel but 'Stäubchen' gave me a green one, when I came four months in the Strafkompanie with you... maybe you remember my winkel and can testify for me… when I think back, you had suffered enough (Kübler)… with me in Block 2 you had a better life…I hope you are very well and sound…awaiting your answer... your friend Karl Pfeiffer " (letter dated: Sept 22, 1970)
The work in the latrines was comun for the Strafkompanie. Latrines were generaly open and four meters deep pits. These pits always running off were emptied at night by prisoners, who for this work had only small buckets available. Sometimes Theodor was forced to use his metal eating bowl instead of the small bucket for this work. It also happened that a prisoner falls into a pit and it was forbidden to take him out. After the work had been done and the pit had been emptied, then one was permitted to remove the corpse.
Isolation through postal blockade and this way making prisoners feel to be forgotten from their relatives, was a technique to break the willpower of the inmates. Psychological damage was achieved by this method, as letters were the only way to have contact with the outside world and their families over years.
Rarely Theodor received a letter from his mother. In one of them the desperate mother wrote that she will send a letter to Mr. Hitler and plea him to free her son because he has done nothing what would deserve his imprisoning. As letters were opened and read, a SS man hit Theodor in the face with a key ring and broke one of his teeth.
The SS man exclaimed that he had to instruct the bitch of his mother, that Hitler is only to be referred by our Führer and not Mr. Hitler. Theodor met this man later again in a war crime trail and could not withstand the internal impulse to slap his face right in the courtyard. As Theodor was later asked what he has to state against this man, he answered: nothing. The U.S. defender clapped his shoulder in a paternal manner and said: Gentleman.
The doctor's round (Visite) which was also abused as an indirect „selection procedure” was always a nerve-racking event for Theodor. The camp physician passed by the patient beds and said "one" or "two", whereby one of them meant "live" and the other meant "die" for the respective prisoner. Theodor changed the number for "die" so often as only somehow possible to "live", but he had to watch out that the camp physician did not remember a certain patient. This was a dangerous situation and sometimes he was in big peril and could only with largest trouble out-talk himself with the fact that by mistake he understood the wrong number he had written down.
The "Bock" [whipping trestle], a feared and hated inventory in the concentration camps was used for punishment of so-called violations of the camp rules but also for satisfying the perverse minds of some SS men.
The flogging punishment was one of the heaviest castigation but legally there was even a complaint right for the sentenced, but first inmates did not know this and second nobody would have even only thought of accusing an SS man of a lie. In order to prevent arbitrariness of an individual guardian and justify it as regular punishment, the flogging had in general to be executed in front of the “Schutzhaftlagerführer”, the SS staff and block inmates after approval of the camp commander. The execution of this punishment by several torturers should make abusing impersonally and anonym and accustom the members of the SS troop to such kind of execution of sentences.
The poor inmate was lashed down to it with some tie-bands, his chest flat and downward and the feet forward or in the opening for the feet of the trestle (see photo and drawing to the right).
5 up to 25 beatings were then applied on his buttocks with stick, whip or “Ochsenziemer” [made of raw hide]. In a circular from April 4, 1942 the chief of “Amtsgruppe D” ordered the proceeding, arranged by Himmler and chief of the German police, that if the additional word “verschärft” [intensified] was added to the sentence, the punishment had to be applied on the naked buttocks. The flogging often hits also the back and kidney region, sometimes provoking severe permanent damage and sometimes the death of the victim.
The inmate had to count loudly each impact, which lead to more hits when the condemned could not articulate the right number because of the pain he felt. After the execution of the sentence, the bloody wounds were brushed-in with iodine to prevent infection, but this was more likely done to torture the poor victim again. And finally the punished had usually to say " Hr. Lagerführer, Häftling Nr. xxx 25 Hiebe dankend erhalten ” [Mr. camp leader, prisoner n° xxx received twenty five blows with gratitude].
Theodor received this punishment several times but once a perverted "SS-Rottenführer" had the idea to change the flogging target from his buttocks to the sole of his feet applying 10 blows with a stick.
The last witness and former KZ-prisoner Eichholzer (Aichholzer), demonstrate how he took the hunged Canaris by the head and carried him away.
Eugenio Pertini † April 25, 1945 - brother of former minister president of Italy Sandro Pertini
Although Theodor tried, he could not save his life but put his own in big peril during doing so.
Sandro Pertini made an official visit to the KZ Flossenbürg to see the place where his brother died. He was told that a prisoner tried to save the life of Eugenio. Shortly afterwards diplomatic personal contacted Theodor through phone and told him, that Italian’s prime minister will visit him personally to express thanks for what he had done for his brother. But this never happened.
Leonard Steinwender catholic priest, prisoner of KZ Buchenwald from Nov 1938 to Nov 1940, wrote the book Christus im KZ[Christ in concentration camp].
click to zoom - double click to close
The dedication inside this copy say's: To the angel of Buchenwald and Flossenbürg,Theo Aichholzer affectionately dedicated from loyal K.Z. comrade L. Steinwender Nov 2, 1946
Alfons Gorbach [prisoner n° 26987], former canceller from Austria in KZ Flossenbürg
Theodor saved his life
Memorial Place Dachau
Every year on the first Sunday after April 29, a commemoration is held for the liberation of KZ Dachau. Theodor (left) participating at a remembrance march.
Knocking the Lock Off the Gate
The documented first arrival of American soldiers at Flossenbürg Concentration Camp was of the 90th Infantry Division at 10:30 A.M. on April 23, 1945. There is no documentation of the arrival of soldiers from the 97th Infantry Division, but there are several items that taken together indicate very strongly that various personnel of the 97th Infantry Division also were at the camp on April 23rd and probably were the first to arrive.
There is anecdotal evidence of nine (9) individuals of the 97th that were there and with five (5) of them specifically identified. (This information was put together by Bob Hacker during several 97th M. P. Platoon reunions in the late 1990’s and from several telephone calls.)
• From a copy of the log of the 2nd Battalion, 303rd Infantry Regiment, 97th Infantry Division there is an entry for 1800, 22 April, that states that they moved into position to relieve elements of the 2nd Cavalry and that the position was within the borders of Czechoslovakia. This information was received from Harold Brown, the Commanding Officer. The concentration camp was on the German side of the border, so this placed the Division forward of the camp.
• Ray Bartolo was one of a three member wire crew of the 365th Field Artillery Battalion, 97th Infantry Division. He specifically remembers being at Flossenbürg on 23 April. He has very specific memories of the camp and of talks with some of the former prisoners. Ray remembers the group at the gate was knocking off the gate lock when he and his group arrived.
• Fred Huber, a squad sergeant of the Military Police Platoon of the 97th Infantry Division, was at the camp with three jeeps; six people. Other M.P. members of the party were Russell Smith, Huber’s driver; Leonard Furnare; Allen Fink; and two others that are not identified. Huber and his squad were detailed to the 303rd Infantry Regiment for traffic control and other Military Police duties.
• Furnare remembers helping to knock off the lock on the camp gate. He also remembers the delousing building.
• Fred Huber remembers a colonel with a command car. After the gate was opened, some of the prisoners rushed out. The colonel had Huber and the others round them up so they could be deloused, be given medical care, and fed. This colonel was probably from the 90th Division and was the one who reported the "liberation" of Flossenbürg. The 97th had just completed their move from Soligen in the Ruhr area near Dusseldorf. For most moves division patches and identification of vehicles were removed to hinder German intelligence from identifying new units in their area. Without identification, most individuals would believe that everyone was from their division.
The above anecdotes indicate that the Huber party was probably the first American Army unit to arrive at the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp with the wire crew arriving a few minutes later. This was a casual encounter and not reported up either chain of command. The significance of the incident was not realized for almost 50 years. The 97th Division performed many duties at the camp. They treated the sick and dying; buried the dead; interviewed former prisoners and gathered evidence for trials of former camp officers and guards; etc. Brig. General Halsey, the commanding officer of the 97th Division inspected the camp as did General Hasbrouck, the commanding officer of the division artillery.
Bob Hacker was at the camp with Sergeant Hrychewicz (Herky) who spoke Polish and Joe Tretter who spoke German plus probably some other members of Herky’s squad. They were probably there on April 24th or April 25th. Julian Noga, a survivor of the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp, designed a bronze plaque that expressed his gratitude to the 97th Infantry Division. He gave and dedicated the plaque on behalf of himself and all other survivors of the camp at the 50th Anniversary of the camp’s liberation on April 23, 1995.
Ausweis for a female overseer at the Concentration Camp Flossenbürg. The identification card gives the woman permission to carry a weapon while on duty, retains her original photograph with authenticating SS stamping and her signature, and was hand signed by Obersturmführer Ludwig Baumgartner, who also served on the staff of Dachau, Sachsenhausen, and Auschwitz. The document shows light age and light carrying wear but has survived in fine condition.
The Execution of Simone Michel-Lévy, Hélène Lignier and Noémie Suchet
On 5 April 1945, the following execution order was received at KL Flossenbürg from SS-Gruppenführer Richard Glücks, the chief of Amtsgruppe D (Department D) of the SS-Wirtschafts- und Verwaltungshauptamt (WVHA) - the office responsible for running the concentration camps.
The execution of the French female prisoners Suchet, Lignier and Michel-Bery approved by RSHA. Immediately carry out the execution in front of the preventive detention prisoners of this camp. Glücks.
Who are these three French women prisoners, Suchet, Lignier and Michel-Bery (sic)? In reality the last name should be Michel-Lévy, Simone Michel-Lévy, while the two others are Hélène Lignier and Noémie Suchet.
Simone Michel-Lévy is one of the great heroes of the French resistance. She was born on 19 January 1906 in the village of Chaussin in the French Jura mountains. She was of working class origin; her father was a local plasterer. After elementary education she moved with her parents to Chauny in the region of l'Aisne where she in 1922, at the age of sixteen and a half, started to work in the administration of the French Post, Telephone and Telegraph service, the PTT.
In 1939, she had advanced to the post of controller-editor in the Switching Department of the PTT's Research and Control Centre in rue Bertrand in Paris. From the very beginning of the German invasion and occupation of France she was opposed to the French capitulation and from December 1940 she became a member of the French resistance movement. Under the command of Ernest Provost, she participated together with Maurice Horvais in the creation of the PTT resistance group, "Action PTT", which in July 1943 became "Etat-major PTT" - Staff Headquarters PTT.
The main purpose of "Action PTT" was to develop a resistance network throughout France that would profit from the legal and professional structure of the PTT to support and hide cells for intelligence gathering and communication. Simone Michel-Lévy's first tasks within this network was to develop a system of "letter boxes" for clandestine communications. A task she accomplished with great energy and dedication.
As the person responsible for the area radio communication she was frequently traveling to set up illegal radio stations, especially in the south-west of France, in Brittany and in Normandy. She was known under a number of aliases like "Emma", "Francoise", "Madame Royale", and "Madame Bertrand". In Caen, where she in January 1942 equipped the local cell of "Action PTT" with two radio operators and their illegal radio station, she was known as "Madame Flaubert".
In the autumn of 1942, "Action PTT" made contact with the well-known resistance group CND (Confrérie Notre-Dame - The Brotherhood of Notre-Dame) under the command of the famous colonel Rémy, Gilbert Renault. They also formed a link with OCM (L'Organisation Civile et Militaire - The Civil and Military Organization) of colonel Alfred Touny. For CND Simone Michel-Lévy organized a clandestine postal centre at Gare de Lyon in Paris. The centre would arrange for the transport of illegal mail using existing railway postal cars and sealed postal sacks. A similar centre was established at Gare Montparnasse for postal transmission to the western parts of the country.
Her specialty was indeed clandestine communications. Under the aliases "Francoise" and "Madame Royale" she developed an excellent system of moving post throughout France using a variety of methods including transport by sea and by air. The strength of a resistance movement is largely dependent on its intelligence sources and its clandestine methods of communication. Seen in this light Simone Michel-Lèvy's work was of crucial importance. She was tireless and dedicated, never refusing to fulfill the most dangerous and demanding tasks. Even after nights without sleep and long voyages she would be at her place of working each morning, her face drawn and tired, but always with a smile.
However, in the end disaster struck. A traitor worked at the core of the CND network. The chief radio operator of CND, Robert Bacque - code name TILDEN, delivered Simone Michel-Lévy and a number of the other members of CND to the Gestapo. In total more than 90 people were arrested due to his traison and as a result CND was completely annihilated. In the evening of 5 November 1943, Emma - her code name within CND, was called by Tilden to an urgent meeting in a cafe named "François Coppée" in Boulevard du Montparnasse.
The cafe was situated close to her place of work and she left her personal belongings on her table clearly intending the meeting to be short. However, she would never return; the meeting was a trap. She was immediately arrested and brought to 101 Avenue Henri Martin, where Georges Delfanne alias Masuy, a French torturer and collaborator, kept house. She was horribly tortured by Delfanne but she did not break and was eventually delivered to the Gestapo in Rue des Saussaies.
She was first kept in the prison at Fresnes before being sent to the camp Royallieu in Compiègne. On 28 January 1944 she left the station at Compiègne in the train 27000 which transported prisoners to Germany. She arrived in the women concentration camp Ravensbrück on 3 February 1944. In April 1944 she was sent to the camp Holleischen (Holysov) in Czechoslovakia, one of Flossenbürg's sub-camps – Auβenlager, to work in an armament factory that produced anti-aircraft ammunition. At Ravensbrück she was registered as prisoner No.: 27481 and at Flossenbürg as No.: 50422.
She was working in workshop 131A of the factory where her work consisted of pressing gunpowder into shells in an enormous press. Here she continued her actions of resistance by sabotaging the work as much as she could. Together with two other French women prisoners, Hélène Lignier and Noémie Suchet, they delayed the production chain, disorganized the work and sometimes succeeded in considerably slowing down the production of anti-aircraft shell. They also sometimes ran the press empty, something which would slowly damage the press and eventually result in the press blowing up and being severely damaged, which happened on 12 September 1944. The three women were immediately accused of sabotage and the process which ended in their execution at KL Flossenbürg was started.
From the official history it is not quite clear exactly what happened to the three women and when. It is reported that on 10 April 1945 they left Holleischen for KL Flossenbürg where they were hanged on 13 April 1945. However, the collection of radio messages from KL Flossenbürg contains the following message transmitted in the evening on 15 April 1945.
15.04.1945 – Nr. 130 – ERZGB – Kr – 1811 – 111 – QDA UTP –
Die Kommandantur KL Flossenbürg meldet
den Vollzug des dortiges Funktelegram
5.4.45, 1914 Uhr.
The command of KL Flossenbürg reports the
execution of the order in your radio telegram of
5.4.45 at 19:14.
- Message Nr. 130 refers to a radio message sent from Oranienburg on 5 April 1945 at 19:14. This message is message Nr. 30 with the execution order for Simone Michel-Lévy, Hélène Lignier and Noémie Suchet. Because the message is sent relatively late in the day and with the priority code "Kr" (urgent) it strongly indicates that the execution took place some time this day, 15 April 1945.
- But as we have seen the date officially recorded as the execution date for Michel-Lévy, Lignier and Suchet is 13 April 1945. If the execution did take place on 13 April the completion report being sent first two day later is very unusual. The camp commander, SS-Obersturmbannführer Max Kögel, sent several seemingly less important messages on both the 13th and 14th April that shows that it cannot have been the indispensability of the camp commander or lack of time that would have delayed the completion report.
- That for some reason it was forgotten to report in time can of course not be excluded and this is probably the most likely explanation for this discrepancy. During my visit to KL Flossenbürg on 22 July 2007 to participate in the inauguration of the new museum I had the opportunity to consult the prison register which was on display. I looked up Simone Michel-Lévy and indeed the entry for her death is recorded as 13 April 1945.
The execution order, message Nr. 30, gives the name of Michel-Lévy as Michel-Bery; in the plaintext her name has even been repeated twice to guard against transmission errors. It was initially suspected that she had tried to hide the Jewish sounding name Lévy, even if there seems to be no Jewish blood in the Michel-Lévy family.
However, a recent communication from Mr. Jean Michel-Lévy, who has tried to establish her family history, makes clear that on the list of prisoners being transported to Ravensbrück and on the documents for her later transfer to Holleischen her name is correctly spelt as Michel-Lévy. Therefore, the most like explanation for the use of Michel-Bery in this text is that it is the result of a clerical error.
Simone Michel-Lévy received several medals and distinctions posthumously:
We are grateful to Mr. Jean Michel-Lévy for supplying us with information about Hélène Lignier and Noémie Suchet. Hélène Lignier, born Millot, in Dijon (Côte d'Or) on 2 September 1916, was the mother of four children. Her camp registration numbers were: No.: 27465 at Ravensbrück and No.: 50422 at Flossenburg.
Noémie Suchet, born Delobelle, in Burbure (Pas de Calais) on 21 August 1920, was the mother of a three year old boy. Her camp registration numbers were: No.: 25122 at Ravensbrück and No.: 50279 at Flossenburg.
The information about Simone Michel-Lévy has been translated from the French Web page of L'Ordre de la Libération and the page with the text written by Jean Michel-Lévy; see the Web links below. Further information are from private communication with Mr. Jean Michel-Lévy.
She was arrested Nov. 5, 1943 by the Gestapo. Without giving any names, she is deported to Ravensbrück concentration camp, then Flossenbürg, where she tries to organize an uprising against the camp guards. She is hanged April 13, 1945 at Flossenburg for sabotaging the press used to manufacture ammunition for the Kommando Holleischen with two other deportees. A plaque in her honor is displayed in the lobby of the research center of France Telecom, Issy-les-Moulineaux.
- 19 January 1906~15 April 1945
Political Prisoners Killed
Sep 1939 - Sep 1941
[Picture: Flossenburg camp]
In September 1939, the SS transferred 1,000 political prisoners to Flossenbürg from Dachau.
In 1941-1942, about 1,500 Polish prisoners, mostly members of the Polish resistance, were deported to Flossenbürg. In July 1941, SS guards shot 40 Polish prisoners at the SS firing range outside the Flossenbürg concentration camp. Between February and September 1941 the SS executed about one-third of the Polish political prisoners deported to Flossenbürg.
Wilhelm Franz Canaris
(1 January 1887 – 9 April 1945)
Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, born on 01-01-1887 in Aplerbeck, Westfalen, was a shrewd, brilliant spymaster who not only managed to keep control of the Abwehr. He outwitted the slippery Himmler (see Himmler) at almost every turn, while joined with other high-ranking German officers in a dangerous plot to eliminate Hitler and make a separate peace with the Allies. Canaris was celebrated as a war hero during the First World War for his exploits as a submarine captain. Canaris was appointed to head the Abwehr Military Intelligence in 1935. In 1938, he made efforts to hinder Hitler from attacking Czechoslovakia and later he played an active role as a peace keeper. Canaris personally went to Franco (see Franco) and told him not to allow passage to the Germans for the purpose of capturing Gibraltar. Canaris was directly involved in the 1938 and 1939 coup attempts. Admiral Canaris was an eye-witness to the killing of civilians in Poland. At Bedzin, SS troops pushed 200 Jews into a synagogue and then set it aflame. They all burned to death. Canaris was shocked. On 10-09-1939, he had travelled to the front to watch the German Army in action. Wherever he went, his intelligence officers told him of an orgy of massacre. Canaris told Keitel, (see Keitel) “The world will one day hold the Wehrmacht responsible for these methods since these things are taking place under its nose.” But Keitel urged Canaris to take the matter no further. Canaris sent another of his colleagues, Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, (see Bonhoeffer) on a flight to Sweden to meet secretly with Bishop Bell of Chichester. Bonhoeffer told Bell of the crimes his nation was committing, and assured Bell of growing resistance in Germany to such acts. In March 1943, Canaris personally flied to Smolensk to plan Hitler’s (see Adolf Hitler) assassination with conspirators on the staff of Army Group Center. Canaris appointed his friend, the anti-Nazi Hans Oster, (see Oster) to the number two in the Abwehr agency. Canaris and many others were arrested and on 07-02-1945, Canaris was brought to the Flössenburg concentration camp but he was still ill-treated and often endured having his face slapped by the SS guards. On 09-04-9145, naked under the scaffold, they knelt for the last time to pray and they were hanged, their corpses left to rot. Two weeks later the camp was liberated by American troops, on 23-04-1945. Canaris died at the age of 58, is cremated in Flössenburg and buried in a large ash hill in Flössenburg. Himmler (Goebbels) with Canaris.
- 1 January 1887 – 9 April 1945
Ignacy Oziewicz (Polish pronunciation: [i??nat?s? ???evit??]; pseudonyms: Czes?aw, Czes?awski, Netta, Jenczewski; 1887 ? 1966). During the World War I, he served in the Russian Tsarist army in various NCO and officers' posts. In 1919, he joined the Polish Army.
During the September Campaign he commanded the 29th Infantry Division. After its defeat, he was interned in Lithuania. Later, he managed to escape from a camp and returned to Poland where he joined the underground movement.
- 1887 ~ 1966)
was Czechoslovakian division general of Slovakian ethnicity, commander of the partisan army during the Slovak National Uprising and the only Slovak general during the interwar period in the first Czechoslovak republic.
In the years 1920-1939 he was commissioned officer, at the diplomatic and commanding services. In 1933 he was promoted to the position of brigadier general and in 1938 to division general.
In 1939, he was serviceman in the Slovak army, belonging to the group of anti-Fascist officers, and was against the break-up of Czechoslovakia into Slovakia and the protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. He was keeping contact with the Czechoslovak government-in-exile in London. He emigrated into France via Hungary, where he became a member of Czechoslovak national committee in Paris and commander of the exile Czechoslovak army. Since 1 January 1940 commander of the 1st Czechoslovak division in France. After the Nazi occupation of France in June 1940, he moved to Britain and became a minister of Czechoslovak government-in-exile.
On August 1944, he flew with the Czechoslovak delegation to the Soviet Union and from there to Banska Bystrica on October 1944 to help the partisans fighting during the Slovak National Uprising, where with Jan Golian became the commander of the 1st Czechoslovak Army in Slovakia.
The Czechoslovak government-in-exile tried to gain influence in the army and the Slovak national uprising through Viest, but the situation for the partisan troops was worsening, with Viest issuing final order during the night from 27 to 28 October in Donovaly: ?Boj za slobodu ?eskoslovenska sa nekon?i, bude pokra?ova? v horach“ (Struggle for the freedom of Czechoslovakia doesn't end, it will continue in the mountains). On 3 November 1944, he was captured with Golian in Pohronsky Bukovec, taken to Berlin in Germany, sentenced to death, and executed in the Flossenburg concentration camp in 1945.
After his death, he was honoured in memoriam with the Order of Slovak national uprising 1st class (1945), Czechoslovak military cross (1945), as well with many other Czechoslovak or foreign medals. In 1945, he was promoted in memoriam to the position of army general.
- 24 September 1890~1945
Was a Slovak Brigadier General who became famous as one of the main organizers and the commander of the insurrectionist 1st Czecho-Slovak Army in Slovakia during the Slovak National Uprising against the Nazis.
He was the supreme military leader of the uprising from April 27, 1944 (while the uprising was still in preparation) until the arrival of Division General Rudolf Viest on October 7, 1944. Afterwards, General Jan Golian served as Viest's deputy.
Despite fierce fighting, the outnumbered and surrounded insurrectionist army could not resist well-equipped German forces. When Viest and Golian ordered their remaining units to start a guerrilla war on October 27, 1944, they did not know that it would be the last order they issued. Both Generals were captured by German special forces on November 3, 1944 in Pohronsky Bukovec. In violation of the international law, they were tortured and executed in a German concentration camp (1945).
- January 26, 1906~ 1945
Prisoner~Prince Philipp Prince and Langrave of Hesse
Prince and Landgrave Philipp of Hesse
(6 November 1896 ? 25 October 1980)
He joined the German National Socialist movement (commonly abbreviated to the Nazis) in 1930, and, when they gained power with the appointment of Adolf Hitleras Chancellor in 1933, he became Governor of Hesse-Nassau. He served as governor from 1933. However, he fell out with the Nazis, was arrested in 1943, dismissed as governor the following year and then was sent to a concentration camp, where he remained until being liberated by US forces.
He was a grandson of Frederick III, German Emperor, and a great-grandson of Queen Victoria, as well as the son-in-law to Victor Emmanuel III of Italy. His relative Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark was named after him on 10 June 1921.
- 6 November 1896 ? 25 October 1980
Karl Sack studied law in Heidelberg where he joined a Burschenschaft (Burschenschaft Vineta) and after a time in legal practice became a judge in Hesse. He married Wilhelmine Weber and had two sons. In 1934, Sack joined the newly established Reichskriegsgericht (Reich Military Court) where he quickly rose to a senior position.
He was able to delay proceedings against Army Commander-in-Chief Werner von Fritsch who had been falsely accused of homosexuality by the Gestapo in an attempt to discredit him for his opposition to Hitler's attempts to subjugate the German armed forces. In the fall of 1942, Karl Sack became Judge Advocate General of the Army.Plaque to Karl Sack at the former Reichskriegsgericht in Berlin
During World War II, Sack maintained contacts within the resistance circles in the military, including Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Major General Hans Oster and Hans von Dohnanyi, as well as with others within the Abwehr (German military intelligence). He was part of the attempt to assassinate Hitler on July 20, 1944 and after that failed attempt he was arrested on August 9, 1944. In the very last days of the war, he was brought before an SS drumhead court-martial presided over by Otto Thorbeck. He was sentenced to death and hanged 2 days later. Sack had been slated for the role of Justice Minister within a planned post-coup civilian government.
In 1984, Sack's role as a member of the resistance was remembered with a bronze plaque placed in the former Reichskriegsgericht in Berlin-Charlottenburg. There was some opposition to this honour as Sack favoured a far-reaching interpretation of what constituted desertion, which must have led to more than a few death sentences.
- June 9, 1896~April 9, 1945
Theodor Strunck studied legal science, graduating at the University of Rostock in 1924, and became a lawyer (later a director) at an insurance company. Initially sympathising with National Socialism, he then turned to opposing the regime on their seizure of power and the subsequent decline in the rule of law.
In 1937 he became a Hauptmann in Germany's reserve forces, working in the Wehrmacht section of the Amt Ausland/Abwehr under Hans Oster. He came into contact withCarl Goerdeler and organised meetings of German Resistance members in his own home.
For his participation in the 20 July 1944 plot, Theodor Strunck was arrested on 1 August, dishonourably discharged from the army on 24 August as part of the "Ehrenhof" (so that the Reichskriegsgericht or Reich Courts Martial would no longer have control of his sentencing), and on 10 October condemned to death by thePeople's Court under its president Roland Freisler. He was then imprisoned in Flossenburg concentration camp, where he, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Wilhelm Canaris,Ludwig Gehre, Hans Oster and Karl Sack were executed together by hanging on 9 April 1945.
- 7 April 1895~ 9 April 1945
Prisoner~Friedrich von Rabenau
Friedrich von Rabenau
(October 10, 1884 - April 09, 1945)
Von Rabenau was arrested in the aftermath of the plot which culminated in the attempt on Hitler's life on July 20, 1944. On April 09, 1945, without having been charged or tried, General von Rabenau, one of the last inmates remaining in the Flossenbürg concentration camp, was hanged on the specific orders of Himmler. Surviving him were his widow Eva Kautz and their two daughters.
- October 10, 1884 - April 09, 1945
(26 March 1904 – 5 September 1944)
Gustave Bieler was born in Beurlay in France. At the age of twenty, he emigrated to Canada where he settled in the city of Montreal working as a school teacher and then as an official translator for Sun Life Assurance and becoming a Canadian citizen. At the outbreak of World War II, although married with two children, Biéler joined the Canadian Army in Le Regiment de Maisonneuve and was shipped to a base in Britain.
His wife Marguerite Geymonat worked as a broadcaster to the troops in Europe on Radio-Canada International. Because of his familiarity with France and his fluency in the French and English languages he joined the "Special Operations Executive" in London.
Known by his wartime nickname "Guy," following his specialized training, Colonel Maurice Buckmaster, the SOE commander, wrote in his file that Biéler was the best student SOE had. On November 18, 1942, Biéler, along with wireless operator Arthur Staggs and Michael Trotobaswere parachuted into France. Unfortunately, in the dark of the night, Biéler severely injured his back after landing on rocks and he spent several months recovering.
Gifted with strong communication and organization skills, as the head of the Musician Network he was able to work with fellow SOE agents and members of the French Resistance to organize very productive sabotage missions. Operating from a base in Saint-Quentin in the northern Aisne département,
Biéler's twenty-five teams, scattered over different areas of northern France, were successful in damaging or destroying German gasoline storage tanks, rail lines, bridges, canal locks, and the electric tractors used to tow barges on the shipping waterways. Their repeated efforts hampered the movement of enemy arms and troops but the most important job for Biéler would eventually be the preparations for D-Day.
His operations were so successful that the Germans instituted a special manhunt to get him and his team and on 13 January 1944 the Gestapo arrested him and agent Yolande Beekman in the Café Moulin Brulé in Saint-Quentin.
At the Gestapo headquarters there the two were tortured repeatedly but never broke and a few months later Biéler was transferred to Flossenbürg concentration camp in the Oberpfalzregion of Bavaria, where the brutal torture continued. Getting nothing out of him, the Germans from whom he gained a great deal of respect, executed a crippled and emaciated Major Guy Biéler by a firing squad with a guard of honour, on 5 September 1944.
Biéler's contribution to freedom was recognized with the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and he was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). In Saint-Quentin, France, he was adopted by the citizens as a folk hero not only for his exploits and bravery but also because he was someone who did everything possible to avoid civilian casualties. The "rue du Commandant Guy Biéler" in Saint-Quentin was named for him and as one of the SOE agents who died for the liberation of France, he is listed on the "Roll of Honor" on the Valençay SOE Memorial in the town of Valençay, in the Indre département. As well, Major Biéler is recorded on the Groesbeek Memorial in Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery in the Netherlands.
On 22 July 2007 an exhibit on Bieler was unvailed at the opening of the museum in commemoration of all those who suffered and died at the Flossenbürg Camp at Flossenbürg, KZ, Germany. There are memorials honoring Bieler at Morcourt, and Fonsommes (France), on the memorial in a park in Wesmount, (Québec).The Centre Juno Beach at Courseulles-sur-mer has a plaque honoring:"Canadians behind enemy lines. Canadian Agents with the British Special Services". There is a Bieler lake in Canada. The veterans' residence in Montreal (Québec) is named after him.
- 26 March 1904 – 5 September 1944
Prisoner~Jack Charles Stanmore Agazarian
Jack Charles Stanmore Agazarian
(19 December 1916 – 29 March 1945)
Was a British espionage agent who worked for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) inside France. He was captured and killed by the Nazis when he sought to confirm the status of a resistance cell that the Nazis had compromised.
In December 1942 Agazarian arrived in Paris to join the newly formed Prosper network of the SOE and was joined later by his wife Francine. He occasionally worked for Henri Dericourt, a former French Air Force pilot whose job was to find landing grounds and arrange receptions for SOE agents arriving by air. At this time he began to question Dericourt's loyalty and reported to London his own and other agents' suspicions.
Agazarian became known to the Gestapo, and on several occasions he narrowly escaped arrest.
SOE Circuit leader Francis Suttill considered Agazarian's continued presence to be a security risk. On 16 June 1943 Agazarian was returned to England where he reiterated his concerns about Dericourt's loyalty to Nicholas Bodington and Maurice Buckmaster, who were nevertheless unconvinced. However, when agent Noor Inyat Khan lost contact with the Prosper group, headquarters became increasingly concerned. Leo Marks, the SOE's head of codes and ciphers, became convinced that Gilbert Norman, the group's wireless operator, was transmitting under German control.
Agazarian joined Bodington (who was still sceptical) in a mission to France to determine the status of the Prosper network, departing 22 July 1943. Bodington, working through headquarters, arranged a meeting with Gilbert Norman at a pre-arranged address in the rue de Rome nearGare St-Lazare, but it was Agazarian, not Bodington who went to the meeting.
The concerns about the Prosper network proved well-founded. German forces had indeed compromised the network, and Agazarian was taken prisoner at the meeting. Three members of the network, courier Andrée Borrel, leader Francis Suttill and wireless operator Gilbert Norman, had been in custody since 23 June, and Norman's transmissions had indeed been made by the Germans. Henri Dericourt's role in the loss of the Prosper network remains unclear; after the war he was tried as a double agent, but acquitted for lack of evidence. In fact he was a triple agent working for Secret Intelligence Service and that the SOE agents had been sacrificed to distract German attentions from landings in Sicily and Normandy.
The arrest of Agazarian, who knew a great deal about the Prosper network, was a massive coup for the Germans. He endured torture for six months at Fresnes prison and was then moved to Flossenbürg concentration camp. After being kept there in solitary confinement, Agazarian was executed on 29 March 1945.
- 19 December 1916 – 29 March 1945
Prisoner~ Lieutenant James Frederick (Jim) Amps
Baker Street Irregulars Hanged
Mar 29, 1945
[Picture: SS wrote a last insult on the chest of a victim: "polak" (insult used by the SS for the Polish prisoners)]
As Germany's defeat loomed, a number of the Special Operative Executive agents whom the SS had tortured repeatedly in order to extract information, were executed on the same day at the Flossenbürg concentration camp.
The Special Operations Executive (SOE), sometimes referred to as "the Baker Street Irregulars" after Sherlock Holmes's fictional group of spies, was a World War II organization, initiated by Winston Churchill and Hugh Dalton in July 1940, to conduct warfare by means other than direct military engagement.
The SOE agents hanged on March 29 were:
Jack Charles Stanmore Agazarian, Phillip John Amphlett, James Frederick Amps ,George William Hedworth Demand, Roland Dowlen, Marcel Georges Florent Fox, Harry Huntington Graham, Eugene Francis (Levene) Felangue, James Francis George Menesson, Brain Dominic Rafferty, David Whytehead Sibrée, V. A. Soskice, Jean Worms. Lieutenant James Frederick (Jim) Amps Executed at Flossenburg March, 29. 1945 age 38
Brookwood Memorial,Surrey Panel 21 Column 3
Caused by air in the night from 17 to 18 March 1943 to be the radio operator of the network CHESTNUT William Grover-Williams"Sebastian." Delui it shall contact the Thérèse Lethier, who operates a farm near Pontoise ( La Haute Borne , to Pierrelaye ) and gives him a house near his farm, where he can live and install the radio equipment to transmit. The first message is sent on 17 April 1943 .
During the three months, four drops of weapons are well organized in the field chosen, located in the forest of Rambouillet. On 31 July 1943 , the Gestapo arrested Roland Dowlen currently operate at his post after the Abwehr was spotted using a truck-finding detection. Robert Benoist , who must meet the same day, is prevented by Teresa Lethier and thus escapes the same fate. However, the head of the network, William Grover-Williams , was arrested two days later. The Germans recovered the radio and use it to their radio Thurs .
- Royal Artillery
- SOE, Section F; rank: sergeant, registration number: 800964
Specializing in raids, it is dropped as saboteur, team member SCULLION 2, August 1943. He was arrested on return.
It is executed in captivity, March 29, 1945 at Flossenbürg . He was 34.
James Francis George Menesson
(1916 to 1945)
Mission statement : assemble and operate the network BIRCH. Get a job at National Rescue , but this time in Paris. Develop a method to prevent the Germans to requisition stocks of food and clothing stores of National Emergency . If possible, submit to the National AidCoordination plans civilian purposes, to allow the Allies to estimate needs. His nom de guerre was "Henry."
It is caused by air on the night of November 15 to 16, 1943 . Paul Pardi , André Maugenet and he will take the train to Paris. They are followed to the station . By choosing to travel to three different compartments, they interfere with the two people who follow them. But, arrived at the Paris-Montparnasse train station , they find themselves and are then arrested all three. Pardi Paul and Jean Menesson do not speak.
- 1916 to 1945
Prisoner~Brian Dominic Rafferty
- SOE agent:
- War name (field name): "Dominique"
- Operational code name: AUBRETIA
- False Identity: Dominic Bertrand Rémy
- Royal Berkshire Regiment
- SOE, Section F; rank: captain, registration number: 129641.
On December 3, George Jones is the victim of a serious accident while riding a bicycle. Despite his serious injuries, he can continue to be issued.
On May 17, 1943, Brian Rafferty was arrested as he is currently organizing the escape of a prison commander Bourgeois.
On May 23, 1943, George Jones was arrested by French police, who gave it to the Gestapo.
On March 29, 1945, Brian Rafferty is hung in Flossenbürg .
- September 1, 1919 ~March 29, 1945
Prisoner~David Whytehead Sibree
Military status: SOE, F Section, General List; rank: lieutenant registration number: 282425.
Hugh Dormer, who led the team responsible SCULLION to attack the factory Thélot, was unsuccessful. He began a second attempt.
David Sibree involved in the raid SCULLION 2, with the nom de guerre "Morand". He was parachuted in the night of 16 to 17 August 1943 with five friends. The team is received by George Demand , the seventh member, dropped four days earlier to prepare the ground.
This time they are able to act on the night of August 20 to 21, and placing explosive charges in several parts of the plant. Sabotage disrupts the production of the oil refinery for some time
On the way back, David Sibree is stopped.
He is executed in captivity Flossenbürg, March 29, 1945.
Prisoner~Lieutenant Marcel Georges Florent
Marcel Georges Florent
Parent unit General List
Born 22.3.1910 Lisbon,Portugal (not Denmark as in one source) (family info)
Son of Ernest Georges Jacques and Maria Eugenie Florentin Fox
Husband of Muriel Kathleen Fox,Potters Bar,Middlesex
Awards Mention in Despatchs,Legion dHonneur (Fr),Croix de Guerre (Fr)
Publican Circuit (organiser)
Executed Flossenburg,Germany, 29th March 1945
- 22.3.1910~29th March 1945
Prisoner~Lieutenant J. deVerieux (Jean Worms)
Special Forces - Roll Of Honour
Parent unit General List
True name Worms,Jean Alexandre
born 1.2.1909 France
Son of Pierre and Marcelle Worms,Paris,France
Husband of Simone Worms,Kensington,London
Juggler Circuit (organiser)
aka Jean Waran
F Section Memorial,Valencay,France
- 1.2.1909 ~29th March 1945