Friday, February 14, 2014

GROSS-ROSEN CONCENTRATION CAMP - PART 6/6


EXECUTIONS
The concentration camp Gross-Rosen was not only a place of arbitrariness, violence and the 'extermination through work', but also of murder and execution. Thousands of people were shot, hanged or killed by lethal injection. Many Soviet POWs were executed on schedule. In the winter of 1941/42 they commenced to shoot or killed soldiers of the Red Army by injections, this began since October in major or minor relapses mainly from the prisoner of war camps 'Stammlager' (Stalag) in Silesia, which were sent from places like Neukamm,  Lamsdorf, and Wollstein near Posen . The basis for these killings as to Russian Political Commissars was already announced by Hitler in March 1941, then at the 6th of June (that was before the attack on the Soviet Union), adopted, and repealed, but in May of the following year the 'Commissar' command was again enforced, stating clearly that the communist commissars 'of any type and position' to be eliminated. Smaller groups of prisoners, emaciated and weak arrived mostly from the POW camps, and were usually shot immediately after their arrival by selected people of the SS guards or killed by SS doctors and their medical support staff by injections. As larger transports arrived, a separate encampment  was set up for them, the so called 'Russian camp'(Russen-Lager). When in October 1941 between 2.500 to 3.000 prisoners arrived from the camp of Lamsdorf, only very few were singled out as labourers, most, however, were killed during the winter.  Of this transport at the end of January only 89 prisoners were still alive. The existing collected personal data of 413 murdered Russian prisoners in April 1942 shows that most of them were young men aged 21 to 24 years. After the abolition of the Commissar Order in May 1942, the few who remained of the resolved 'Russian camp'  were in part integrated into the general camp, often subjected to the 'special treatment' (Sonderbehandlung) which meant death. The exact number of people killed in Gross-Rosen of Soviet prisoners of war is not known, but it must have been from 4,000 to 5,000.
How many died?
 These executions, and often under gruelling conditions in the prison camps, contrary to all law and all agreements of martial law, during the 'special treatment' the SS and SD circumvented the German justice system which was completely ignored.  Since the war began Jews, Poles, Gypsies and Soviet Russians were no longer tried in criminal matters by civilian courts, but were handed over to the Reich Leader of the SS, that meant, Himmler took over a certain 'law enforcement' of the population in the occupied territories. With the instrument of the concentration camps he had the staff and locations to enforce summary proceedings precipitated death sentences in a relatively unobtrusive manner from the population. The camps were the execution sites of the Gestapo.  Gross-Rosen received from the State Police Offices of Breslau, Posen and Reichenberg individuals referred to as 'Special Treatment'(Sonderbehandlung). They were taken over as protective custody prisoners until the necessary 'decrees for special treatment' requested by the Gestapo Offices arrived, issued and endorsed by the Reich Security Main Office . In Gross-Rosen in the first years only two verifiable executions took place, but then in 1944 375 recorded death penalties took place, it were probably much more. 244 were led by SS-courts (Standgericht), the rest by the RSHA and the WVHA. 48 of the victims were hanged, the others almost always killed by injections. The reason or accusations advanced by the SS for the 'special treatment' were varied, in the main they were: sabotage, theft, attempted escape, refusal to work, sexual relationships with German women, in single cases even within the Gross-Rosen camp there were 40 cases of unauthorized sexual conduct, one for arson and even cruelty to animals. Prisoners from the camp were hanged, always in the presence of the other inmates, and the execution had to be enforced as the rule by prisoners.
Any of the Gross-Rosen Labour Camps were not noted for organized uprisings. In general, this option was of only marginal concern in the camp experience. Prisoners in these camps, unlike those in concentration camps, could entertain some reasonable hope that the Germans were in need of their labour and thus would be in no hurry to kill them. This gave them good reason to consider such decision very carefully. Uprisings in labour camps were really a personal choice based mainly on efforts to stay alive.
Hans Bonarewitz being taken to his execution after escaping and being recaptured 7 July 1942.' Note: He is pulled by inmates on a trolly, accopanied by musicians to the gallows
 In small Gross-Rosen camps, organizing an active uprising was almost impossible. Any untoward action immediately attracted attention and was difficult to conceal. Those who wanted to survive and fight for their lives were cautious and frowned on any action that might harm them or put their lives at risk. The authorities' collective punishment policies also created a deterrent. Nevertheless, a few prisoners did attempt to revolt. One prisoner who was interned in the Fünfteichen camp November 1944 approached a German overseer who had beaten a boy and asked fearlessly whether he was familiar with the injunction against beating prisoners The Meister surprised, pushed him away. Instead of backing down, the prisoner seized the Meister by the neck and began to strangle him. A Wehrmacht Officer on the scene offered to settle the matter then and there and not report to headquarters. The Meister agreed to consider 100 lashes a fitting punishment. The sentence was carried out immediately. As he lay in the Reviere, beaten and bruised, the prisoner was surprised when the Officer visited him to express an interest in his well-being: "How are you doing, brave young guy"?
In the Wolfsberg camp, three young male prisoners were flogged in front of the inmate population for pilfering potatoes. When it came to the third convict's turn, he stood up  and knocked the Kapo to the ground. The camp commander, thoroughly enraged, seized the whip and continued the flogging  personally. When he was finished, he flung the whip away and left another dead body behind him.
The few surviving cables and reports about implementing of the directives indicate how intolerably easy it was to decide to put prisoners to death. For Gross-Rosen prisoners to be publicly executed , even the commander of the main camp needed authorization from the WVHA head office. Höss confirms that with regard to prisoners who had been sentenced to death, the RSHA sent a cable with instructions as to how the killing should be carried out. A directive from th WVHA, dated 11 September 1944, authorized Hassebroek not only to seek the death penalty for prisoners who attempted to escape but also to impose it at his discretion on a case by case basis. At his trial Hassebroek explained that the directive was handed down in order to deter further escape attempts. On the basis of the WVHA decision, Hassbroek issued the following order on 11 October: "By directive of SS-WVHA, Department D1, of 11 September 1944, I order the execution by hanging of the prisoner Ludwig Fischer, who escaped from the Riese camp on 19 August 1944. The members of the guards unit were exonerated".
Ludwig Fischer, aged 28, a prisone from Hungary, number 33,815 (a "recycled" number) escaped in August 1944 from Märzbachtal, one of the Riese camps, as was recaptured on 12 October. To the authorities enraged astonishment, Fischer had managed to get all the way to Vienna. The hanging took place at Märzbachtal, in accordance with Hassbroek's directive that "the execution shall be performed by Jews from the same camp whence the Jew escaped.
An SS car came from Wüstegiersdorf with Fischer in it. After the evining roll call and after the commander ruled firmly that "civilian workers shall not attend the execution", Fischer was led to the gallows. The Lagerälteste was ordered to tie a noose around Fischer's neck and pull the stool from under his legs. After this was done, Lütkemeyer ceremoniously informed the prisoners: "Any bird that wants to escape from the camp will meet a similar fate'. The chief physician of the Riese complex, Dr. Rindfleisch, approached Fischer's body, examined it perfunctorily, and announced:" The dog is dead'. The corpse was undressed and sent to Gross-Rosen for incineration the next day.
Report on the hanging of a Jewish inmate after escape from the Hirschberg camp, October 1944'

The regime propagated and operated since 1939 'a weeding out of unworthy life', a convenient expression meaning ' euthanasia', which was since the spring of 1941 performed within all the concentration camps under the secret code '14f13 to 'liberate' concentration camps of unnecessary and 'existing human ballast' (Ballastexistenzen). The organization responsible for Department T-4 in Berlin sent in December 1941 the euthanasia doctor Friedrich Mennecke reporting for selection to Gross-Rosen. However, he did not limit himself in agreement with the camp authorities to the terminally ill, but also took into account previous offences of inmates and the 'race' of the prisoners. Of the 293 originally listed prisoners by the Protective Custody Commander Thumann, of which only 70 came out of the infirmary, on the other hand, he, the doctor took 119 Jews, a total of 214 were chosen, about one-sixth of the camp inmates at that time. Thumann had more specified than required, because he anticipated as a rule the death of prisoners until the final Term of Disposal (Abschiebetermin), furthermore the camp commander Rödl still asked to be allowed to include an additional 100 now certainly incapacitated prisoners, previously destined for Dachau, to have them included on the list to the Euthanasia Institution at Bernburg. Finally, Rödl reported in March 1942, to the Inspector of Concentration Camps, that of the 214 detainees provided on 17 March, 70 of them had been transferred on that day, followed by 57 the next day. 36 inmates had died in the past two months and the rest, including 42 Jews were able to work, and he had them retained. (zurückbehalten). [Nbg. Doc PS Doc. 1151-P. Quoted in ibid, page 218f, sic]
Notice from commander Gross-Rosen about completion of the 'euthanasia' operation, 3 April 1942

 THE EVACUATION OF THE CAMP
When in January 1945 the Red Army approached the river Oder, the evacuation of the main camp (Stammlager) and its satellite camps had commenced on orders of Himmler. But first there were large columns of prisoners that arrived in Gross-Rosen from Auschwitz and brought into the unfinished barracks of the 'Auschwitz camp '. From the outset, the 14 satellite camps on the right side of the Oder (which is the east ) were abandoned and their occupants had been driven in part by forced marches to Gross- Rosen. Prisoners of further east located satellite camps were transported into central Germany and finally got among others to Sachsenhausen and Bergen-Belsen. In February, the main camp Gross-Rosen itself  was vacated together with their 23 satellite camps . The actual evacuation took place on the 8th and 9th of February 1945. The overcrowded trains of freight cars, reached after several days the Buchenwald concentration camp, Flossenburg, the sub-camps of Hersbruck and Leitmeritz, Mauthausen, Dora, Nordhausen and the the main camp itself of Mittelbau-Dora. During the journeys hundreds suffered from hunger, cold and exhaustion had come to their deaths, others barely alive had to immediately be admitted into camp hospitals. The commandant of the concentration camp Gross-Rosen moved to Reichenau and tried from there to manage the remaining sub-camps.  Initially 120 SS men and 60 to 70 functionary prisoners stayed behind in the camp, who recovered and buried corpses, burned files and eliminated other traces of atrocities. Shortly before the departure of the commando, they still discovered 20 to 30 hidden prisoners who were shot on the orders of protective custody camp leader Ernstberger. In another case two other sub-camps were hastily closed. The last camps, however, were liberated by Soviet troops in May and overtook some evacuation transports and freed the prisoners. At this time, the camp administration for Gross-Rosen at  Reichenau was dissolved, and the remaining camp records were destroyed.
The final evacuation took place on 7 February and lasted for four days. Each prisoner received a loaf of bread and one tin of food, a ration that forced a bitter decision. Should the whole portion be eaten then and there or divided up. As experienced inmates who knew that each day might be their last, they hurriedly ate all the precious food for the little energy it might offer their weakened bodies. The evacuation of veteran prisoners in Gross-Rosen camp began on 9 February. As it was under way, some of these prisoners made tragic attempts to arrange hideouts. When they were discovered, they were not placed in the convoy but were summarily shot. The prisoners marched through the camp gate to the strains of a band that actually stood there and played. The first to be evacuated were women who had been brought over from Auschwitz-Birkenau. They wee followed by men who had been interned on the grounds of the new "Auschwitz". The last to leave were veteran prisoners of the camp.
The Transport destined for Flossenburg, Mauthausen, and Mittelbau spent more than a week on the road. Even a shorter march, however, was a horrific ordeal. Prisoners in a transport to Dachau left on 28 January and spent two days in open railway cars in ghastly congestion. Without food and water, they could not endure the physical and physiological strain. "they bit the noses and ears of the weak prisoners and even sucked their blood. I witnessed it. Of the 1,800 prisoners, only 800-900 arrived, most of them skeletons". [Czernik, "Filie Obozu Konzentracyjnego", 224, sic]
The largest number of evacuees from the main camp 9,571, was sent in seven transports to Dora-Mittelbau and its satellite camps. Three transports reached Flossenburg with 9,465 persons om board. Buchenwald took two transports totalling 3,290 prisoners. A third transport pulled up to the gates of Buchenwald but was turned away, all 2,783 prisoners were taken to Mauthausen. Transports of women prisoners from Weisswasser set out for Bergen-Belsen, and a small group was sent to Ravensbrück. All together, twenty-four of the Gross-Rosen Labour Camps were deactivated at this phase.
A Transport that was readied for evacuation on 10 February may be indicative of the evacuation transports in general. The prisoners spent eight hours standing motionlessly on the snow-covered roll-call grounds. The weak and exhausted among them died then and there. Later, the surviving prisoners were led to the rail-road station, only to find that the track had been damaged and the cars that were to transport them had not arrived. Thus they were led uphill back to the camp. At 9.00 pm, as the booming of nearby artillery reverberated around the camp, headquarters decided to attempt again to set the transport into motion . The cars had arrived by then, and about 150 persons were crammed into each. The train made slow progress, stopped frequently, veered onto sidings, and finally reached Leitmeritz, a satellite camp of Flossenburg, Where the inmates spent some time digging in tunnels.
Since the SS-team also left the the camps when the transport set out, the remaining population was made up solely of sick prisoners and a special detail of German prisoners who obfuscated evidence. The prevailing estimate is that some 30,000 prisoners were evacuated from the main campp, including many who had never actually been prisoners there. Only 25,000 of the evcuees reached camps in the Reich.
The first Soviet soldiers to enter Gross-Rosen were members of Ivan Ivanov's motorized Infantry Brigade, part of the third Army. The date was 13 February. They found chard prisoner cards, armbands, and mounds of clothing. Thus, Gross-Rosen becamr the filth concentration camp that the Reich had lost.
The balance sheet of the evacuation is the following according to Konieczny - and these figures give again an idea of ​​the magnitude of what has happened: Bergen-Belsen took over five transports with about 4,000 prisoners, to Buchenwald went 19 transports with 9,559, to Dachau in four transports with 2,514, to Flossenburg in 17 transports 11,583, to Mauthausen in five transports 4,839, to Mittelbau-Dora in eight transports 11,369, a woman transport went to Neuengamme  and  Ravensbruck with 45 and 60 prisoners. In total, there are at least 44,000 prisoners, those that had perished and the escapees can not be accounted for. There is no reliable information about  36,000 prisoners in satellite camps that had been liberated by Soviet troops.

Order to evacuate Gross-Rosen, 7 February 1945'

List of Jewish Prisoners reached Buchenwald concentration camp from Gross-Rosen on a death march, 7 March 1945

EPILOGUE
The concentration camp did not exist hidden and apart in an inaccessible country, but was in close proximity to a larger village. It could be seen from the nearby hills by anyone in the quarry and granite works, were many civilian workers and apprentices were employed in addition to the prisoners. There were suppliers and customers for the camp and factory In the early years. Before a camp's own registry office and a crematorium were set up, the registry office and the cemetery staff in Liegnitz knew the unusual high number of deaths in the camp, later you noticed by sight in many places, the prisoners from numerous satellite camps , and not all laid-off workers or released inmates adhered to the obligatory rule of silence (Schweigegebot), and finally, there have been in the Gross-Rosen over the years a few thousand guards who no doubt would have talked. The existence of the camp was not able to be concealed, what remained unknown to many was the real aims and its real character and purpose.
The main camp was taken over on the 13th February 1945 by the 70th motorized Infantry Brigade of the 3rd Soviet Guards Tank Army. The summary report of Alfred Komieczny concludes with these words: "In the postwar years the camp grounds were gradually cleared and converted into a memorial. From the camp facilities only very little has been preserved. Today only the gateway to the prisoner camp with the main guard barracks remain. The portable crematorium still exists, but today it is located next to the Wall of Death, the site of numerous executions. Parts of the old camp fence are still there, of the prisoner barracks only the foundations remain. The upper terrace of the camp is crowned by a mausoleum in memory of the victims of the Nazi regime , after a design by Adam Procki. The niches in the granite wall hold urns, filled with the soil from the labour camps. In the converted former SS canteen now contains the exhibition and the administration of the 'State Museum Gross-Rosen' which was built in 1983 in Rogoznica".
Picture taken by the Sicherheitspolizei, the original caption states that the two women show signs of rape'

Yet liberation had also another face, one of the most stunning scenes, as described in the memoirs of one women survivor, was the arrival of the Soviet soldiers at the camp gate. Two tanks led a column made up of a peasant wagon towed by tow horses and laden with rugs. Women soldiers sat on the rugs, tossing candies in every direction. Following them were the soldiers. Similar accounts recur in most testimonies. 'I got a shock when I saw this army. They rode bicycles and their rifles were suspended on strings instead of belts. I said to myself, 'So this is the victorious conquering army'. The amazement and joy of liberation quickly abated. To their dismay, the women prisoners realized that now they were faced with a new plight and that their ordeal was not yet over. 'The Russian soldiers 'needed' women, and our war with them began'. From the first day, according to the 'liberated' women, not a night passed without drunken soldiers entering the camps or the quarters in nearby villages and towns in search for women. 'I gave you your freedom. Aren't you willing to give me anything?' a women heard one of the more moderate soldiers complain. The soldiers could not understand why Jewish women prisoners refused to pay for their liberation in the coin of kindness. Some were unwilling to accept any resistance, resulting in many instances of rape during the first days of liberation. Some liberated prisoners were even shot for attempting to resist. The Langenbielau camp was visited by savage Soviet soldiers who were drunk with victory and alcohol. 'There were two Jewish sisters, they raped one and shot the other'.[Testimony of Chaya Konsans, YVA, 03.5145. sic] Robbery was also rampant. The liberated people, as well as the local population, were stripped of any sense of personal security. Those who stepped out of their homes were at mortal risk, as Russian soldiers arrested anyone they pleased and dispossessed them even of trivial items. Arrest of women ended in rape. It is not difficult to imagine the impact of this perpetual threat on the fragile psychological condition of the former female prisoners. A former inmate at the Görlitz camp described the feeling well: "As I think about it today, I am filled with disgust about that fateful moment. To be a defenceless women in such a cruel world". After she mustered her courage and took her first steps outside the camp, Soviet soldiers assaulted and attempted to rape her in the street of Görlitz. She fled back to the camp, which had suddenly become the safest available haven, and asked the men prisoners to protect her and her comrades.
A survivor who had been imprisoned in Bernsdorf remarked  that in the Protectorate area, too, the Soviet soldiers behaved in a way that left liberated women stunned. "The Russians didn't behave very decently. They were aggressive with the girls. Things went so far that my sister and I, and another twenty girls or so, barricaded ourselves in one room,  blocked the door with a cupboard, and did not let them in. When they broke down the door, we told them there was a epidemic there and they mustn't enter". [Testimony of Chaya Berkowitz, Moreshet Archives at Givat Haviva, A,519, sic]
'Kłodzko (Glatz) Fortress, with the city in the background'

The Glatz (Klodzko) fortress, near the border of the Sudetenland, was the last German fortification that the Soviets had to surmount in the battle for Lower Silesia. The Jews who were liberated from the Gross-Rosen camps in this area, the sense of deliverance and the intoxicating freedom that the remnants of humanity in the Gross-Rosen Labour Camps experienced at this time were quickly overshadowed by new depredations on the part of the Red Army soldiers. The celebrated and magnanimous liberator often turned into demanding, merciless rapists, who added new victims to the list of the dead.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:
Sources:
'Der Ort des Terrors' Vol 6 'Groß-Rosen-Stammlager' C.H.Beck oHG, München 2007, Researcher/Author: Isabell Sprenger/Walter Kumpmann. Vetted by: Institute for Research on Anti-Semitism-Berlin. Translated from German by: Herbert Stolpmann, February 2014. HKS: My Initials, when expressing my own opinion or other sources, [sic]:transcribed exactly as found in other original source. Sponsors: a)Cultural Department of the Federal Republic of Germany. b)The Foreign Office of Germany, c)Alfred Krupp Foundation. Short passages from: 'A narrow Bridge to Life', by Bella Gutterman, translated from Hebrew. Wikipedia, Metapedia
Editing/Design:
d_stolpmann@hotmail.com

Appendix:
WAS SLAVE LABOUR NEW?
Between 1881 and 1885 fifteen thousand Chinese males, virtual slaves, were brought over from China by the Central Government of Canada to build a railway so that the renegade province of British Columbia wouldn't join the United States. Ironically an American railway engineer, Andrew Onderdonk, was put in charge of the project. He wanted Chinese workers because they were cheap and "If they could build the Great Wall of China they could build a railway".  The Ching dynasty permitted Onderdonk to venture up to the Zhuijiang River delta and take the poor villagers from there.
The Chinese were shipped to Canada in such tight quarters that they had to intertwine legs to find a place to sit. Four hundred grams of rice were served up to sustain ten men. Many starved to death on the long voyage. When they finally arrived in British Columbia they were divided into groups of thirty men and put through a long forced march over mountains, with heavy packs on their backs, to get to the site of work. It was winter and few had anything more than the clothing they wore in the sub-tropical villages from which they came. Waking to frozen bodies was part of the coolie's life. The Chinese workers carved thirteen tunnels through the mountains with only pick and shovel as tools. They moved over 11 million square metres of rock and gravel. From Yale to Lytton they built six hundred bridges, hauled a thousand tons of steel and 40 million boards. Scurvy took many. Starvation took more. Over a thousand Chinese workers died in the Fraser canyon section of the railway alone. In total over six thousand Chinese died in the building of the railway - more than one per mile. The workers were charged fifteen dollars to ship their dead home to the waiting burial grounds in Xinhui.
The Chinese workers were never supplied with gloves, coats, helmets or shoes and they received less than seventy-five cents a day for their efforts. When the railway was finally completed no transportation was supplied to the Chinese workers. Wherever the Chinese workers were  when "the golden spike" joined the tracks from the east with the tracks from the west they were simply left - to fend for themselves - and by the way, to get out of Canada. In 1885 Canada increased the incentive to go by introducing a head tax for any Chinese man who wanted to bring in his wife and children - fifty dollars a Chinese soul. In 1900 the Canadian Government got annoyed with the head tax and raised it first to one hundred dollars a Chinese head, then three years later to five hundred dollars. To put that figure in context: in 1903, five hundred dollars in Canada could buy two hundred acres of prime form land. By the end of 1923 it is estimated that the Chinese had paid $26 million in head tax. The cost to build the railway was only $25 million. In 1923 Canada had had enough of the Chinese altogether and passed the CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT that stated, "With the exception of diplomatic personnel, business people and students, no Chinese may enter Canada. This ruling applies to Chinese only". (Nice of them to clarify that).
But still the hatred lingered. In 1907 riots broke out in Vancouver's Chinatown. In 1908 Vancouver and Victoria passed laws excluding Chinese students from attending the same school as white children.
Finally, in 1947 the CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT was repealed. The act was in place for just under twenty-four years. For that time Chinese people living in Canada had virtually no legal status. Yet many fought - and some died - for Canada in the Second World War.
Things have changed. In 1957 the first Chinese man was elected to Parliament. In 1965 a Chinese man was elected mayor of a major city. And now they have a Governor General who is Chinese. But there is still something missing. An apology - an official apology  from the Government of Canada to the Chinese people of that country who had a lot to do with making this a great nation.
Every sin the Canadians committed against the Black Haired People, let alone the Black Slave Trade in the United States is well documented, but conveniently overlooked, but not forgotten.

2 comments:

  1. A very informative post. Thank you so much for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for your kind comment

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