Aftermath

 

The trial of Ernst August König, a resident of Berleburg, took place in Siegen in 1987. König was in charge of having committed crimes in the so-called Gypsy camp of Birkenau. I attended the proceedings so that I could give a report to the Hamburg Auschwitz Committee…One day during the trial, a former SS man by the name of Kühnemann was called as a defense witness. I was puzzled when I saw him enter the courtroom. The way he moved seemed strangely familiar to me. But I didn’t really know who he was until he started to speak. I became quite upset and talked to the public prosecutor during the recess in the proceedings. I told him that this was the same man who in March 1943 had killed Max Rosenstein’s child by smashing its head against a pole…The public prosecutor instituted preliminary proceedings against Kühnemann and subsequently filed charges against him. There were a number of witnesses for the prosecution. But in 1995, after the trial in Duisburg had gone on for nearly two years, the proceedings were postponed indefinitely because by that time Kühnemann was supposedly too old or too sick to stand trial.

THE UNWELCOME ONE
By Hans Frankenthal

 

In his final opinion the judge at the Nuremberg trial wrote:

In defiance of military needs, in spite of economic demands, and against every rule of reason, incalculable manpower was being wildly killed off…For a country at war nothing can be more vital than that ammunition reach the soldiers holding the fighting fronts. Yet, in one massacre in Sluzk, vehicles loaded with ammunition for the armed forces were left standing in the streets because the Jewish drivers, already illegally forced into this service had been liquidated by the Execution Battalions.

On September 15, 1947, the commander of Einsatzgruppen D, Otto Ohlendorf, stepped into the courtroom for the Einsatzgruppen trial. Handsome, poised, polite, dignified, and forty years of age – the man was a compelling personality. The killing was unpleasant to him, he said, but he knew he was destroying dangerous people. And the children? Well, the children were killed because of permanent security problems. They would surely grow up, he testified, and the children of parents who had been killed would constitute a very real danger to the State.

HITLER’S DEATH CAMPS
By Konnilyn G. Feig

 

Hans Friedrich, an ethnic German from Romania, participated personally in these ‘pit’ killings as a member of the 1st SS Infantry Brigade. Friedrich says he had ‘no feelings’ as he shot the Jews…Petras Zelionka was a member of the Lithuanian unit that took part in the killings…Even after the war was over – Zelionka was interviewed in 1996 and Friedrich eight years later – neither expressed any remorse for their actions, and they both talked about the killings as if they had gained some base, sadistic kick out of murdering in this intimate way. Friedrich, for example, says that the Jews “were extremely shocked, utterly frightened and petrified, and you could do what you wanted with them,” and Zelionka that he felt a sense of “curiosity” as he killed the children – “you just pull the trigger, the shot is fired and that is it.”

THE HOLOCAUST
By Laurence Rees

 

{Twenty-two} commanders and officers of Einsatzgruppen organizations were brought to trial in Germany by the U.S. military government after the war…All twenty-two defendants were convicted on at least one of three counts of indictment (crimes against humanity, conventional war crimes, membership in an illegal organization). Fourteen were sentenced to death by hanging, two to life imprisonment, the remaining six to lesser sentences…In January 1951 U.S. High Commissioner John J. McCloy confirmed some sentences but reduced others, including ten of the fourteen death sentences…West German courts convicted and punished only 472 defendants in total for involvement in the persecution and murder of Jews. It follows that most Einsatzgruppen, Order Police, Totenkopf, Waffen-SS and other SS members who perpetrated mass murder in the East during the Second World War were neither indicted nor convicted but have lived out their lives in freedom, unpunished, a liberty they summarily denied their victims.

MASTERS OF DEATH
By Richard Rhodes

 

Schwammberger’s Nazi career could be described as a modest success. Born in South Tirol in 1912, he became a party member in 1933, which put him in the class of opportunistic joiners rather than early believers. Sent to Cracow in 1939 as a low-ranking SS officer, he became commandant of a slave-labor camp, which was closed in 1942. The 200 surviving slaves were shot. He was promoted to the rank of Oberscharfȕhrer and became ruler of the ghetto in Przemysl, whose inhabitants were transported at regular intervals to Belzec and Auschwitz. His cruelty and sense of fun were not unusual for a man of his position: his favorite Alsatian, Prinz, was often set upon the Jewish prisoners and he was fond of killing people in front of their families. His postwar life was not untypical either, for a man of his ilk: he was helped by Catholic priests to escape to Argentina, where he lived in peace, devoting his time to beekeeping. He was only brought back to Germany in 1990; his trial began the following year.

THE WAGES OF GUILT
By Ian Buruma

 

German civilians crowd around a broadcast truck announcing the unconditional surrender of Germany to the Allies.

Contrary to the impression created by the Hollywood movie The Sound of Music, most Austrians did not oppose the German invasion. In fact, the Anschluss sparked vicious displays of anti-Semitism within Austria. Austrian Gentiles, sometimes urged on by Germans but often acting on their own, seized the opportunity to assail their Jewish compatriots. They stole their property, harassed and beat them, and subjected many to public rituals of humiliation. For example, in Vienna, crowds took delight in forcing professors, artists, journalists, and other prominent Austrian Jews to scrub streets with toothbrushes. Decades after the war a small statue in Vienna commemorates the ‘Jew with a toothbrush’ and reminds Austrians of the complicity of ordinary people from their country in the crimes of Nazism.

THE HOLOCAUST: A CONCISE HISTORY
By Doris L. Bergen

 

At Nordhausen they found piles of dead and dying bodies in the same hut, lying in their own excrement and filth. Among the dead, they discovered emaciated children.

A U.S. congressional delegation inspected three concentration camps in May 1945. At Dora they found piles of dead bodies and thousands of dying inmates. One representative said of the SS: “They reached depths of human degradation beyond belief and constituted no less than organized crime against civilization and humanity for which swift, certain, and adequate punishment should be meted out to all those who were responsible.”

HITLER’S DEATH CAMPS
By Konnilyn G. Feig

 

“My Aunt Dora noticed that I wasn’t eating anything. She said to me, ‘Don’t you want some breakfast?’ I said, ‘Can I have some milk?’ She said, ‘Of course.’ I said, ‘How much milk can I have?’ She said, ‘A whole lot.’ I suddenly pulled my hands from under my seat. I grabbed the bottle and filled the glass with milk, the first full glass of milk I’d had since 1939 – twelve years earlier! When I look back, I have to smile. That was one bright moment for a glass of milk back in 1951. But in real life, happy endings are mixed. Twenty-three members of my family perished, including my father. And from approximately twenty-five thousand Jewish children from Radom and its surrounding areas, there are no more than thirty-five known survivors.”

THE HIDDEN CHILDREN
By Jane Marks

 

Wiesenthal was often asked to explain his motives for becoming a Nazi hunter. Wiesenthal once spent the Sabbath at the home of a former Mauthausen inmate, now a well-to-do jewelry manufacturer. After dinner his host said, “Simon, if you had gone back to building houses, you’d be a millionaire. Why didn’t you?” “You’re a religious man,” replied Wiesenthal. “You believe in God and life after death. I also believe. When we come to the other world and meet the millions of Jews who died in the camps and they ask us, ‘What have you done?’ there will be many answers. You will say, ‘I became a jeweler,’ another will say, ‘I built houses,’ but I will say, ‘I did not forget you.’”

SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER

 

Denazification poster entitled, “These Outrages: Your Fault!”

On the morning of February 15, I opened the window and saw a hustle and bustle in the yard…”What has happened?” I asked in surprise. “Don’t you know? The Russians marched into Grunberg last night!” I had never felt such joy before. I threw myself onto my bed, sobbing, and I could barely calm myself enough to go into town…I walked into Grünberg. What a different sight the town was now. The stuck-up German women with the ever-present shopping bags in their hands, the proud policemen, the retreating soldiers, had all disappeared from the streets. The shops had been broken into, the windows of all the houses had been shot out and doors were agape. I entered one of these ransacked houses. The rooms hadn’t been touched but the contents of the wardrobes were scattered in the middle of the room – the same way I found my apartment when the Germans were finished with it. I must say, it felt good to see a swastika-adorned home all vandalized, after what had been done to us. It was a joy to know that the proud, cruel Germans who had made millions of people homeless were rendered homeless themselves. It was a joy to search through the belongings they’d left behind, to see the traces of their hasty flight, and to know that most likely their hearts had ached when they had to leave their homes the same way it had hurt us when we had had to tie up the fruits of a life’s labor into a single bundle to take along with us. This gave me no small satisfaction.

AS THE LILACS BLOOMED
By Anna Molnar Hegedus

 

Mordecai Lichtenstein, an Auschwitz survivor who after liberation left for England, ended his deposition of May 1945 with the following comments: “Before I left Poland I wanted to see Bendzin for a last time. I wish I had not returned to this once flourishing Jewish town which has now become a ghost town. Of 30,000 Jews living there five and a half years ago, only 160 were registered on February 15th, 1945 and I assume that even these figures are too high…Now I am here [in London]…I am free, but I cannot feel happy. My parents-in-law were gassed, my younger brother, his wife and their little daughter gassed, my brother-in-law Moses hanged, and his wife and daughter died from typhus in the women’s camp. I lost sight of my second brother and my brother-in-law Wolf during the shooting [on the death march], and I do not know whether they have survived that assault. Worst of it all, however, I do not know anything about my wife’s fate.”

A SMALL TOWN NEAR AUSCHWITZ
By Mary Fulbrook

 

When I [an Auschwitz survivor] brought up the subject of Auschwitz [in Germany in 1946] and the persecution of the Jews, their reactions became even more extreme. Everybody – and I mean everybody – claimed total ignorance. And yet I knew many people in Schmallenberg who had been Nazis. Even among friends and people my own age the subject was taboo. As soon as I touched on it, they’d say: “Yeah, yeah, we know. But enough is enough. You’ve got to draw the line somewhere.” You have to give the Germans credit. They really pulled off quite a coup, keeping something of such horrific dimensions repressed and under wraps.

THE UNWELCOME ONE
By Hans Frankenthal

 

At 3 p.m. small groups of Soviet troops were entering the camps at Birkenau and Auschwitz camp. They were welcomed with joy by the liberated prisoners. After clearing the mines, the 92nd Infantry Division of the 59th Army of the Ukrainian Front, commanded by Colonel M. Winogradow entered the camp. Approximately six hundred bodies of men and women prisoners lay on the grounds. They had died of the cold, illness, starvation, or had been shot by the SS. When the Soviet army entered the camp, there were about 1,200 prisoners at Auschwitz, 4,000 women and 1,800 men at Birkenau, and about 600 left at Monowitz. Many were so sick and exhausted that they could not be saved.

DEATH DEALER: THE MEMOIRS OF THE SS KOMMANDANT AT AUSCHWITZ
By Rudolf Höss
Edited by Steve Paskuly

 

Finally, in May 1953, he [Keith Pickus] received the following letter from the International Committee of the Red Cross [about his parents and brother]:

Dear Sir,

Further to your inquiry dated 25 November, 1952, we regret to inform you that we have received the following reply from the International Tracing Agency in Arlosen:

WEISZ Heinrich, Born 24 February, 1880

WEISZ Johanna, nee Lobl, born 15 May, 1892, and

WEISZ Ernst, born 26 May, 1928

Were transferred with Transport: AS-736, 737, 738 on 30 April, 1942, to Zamose. Transpor “AS,” dated 30 April, 1942, is considered by the Czechoslovak Ministry of Social Welfare, Prague, as a death-transport from which less than 10% are known to have returned after the war.”

With our sympathy for these sad news.

OUR ONLY HOPE
By Keith H. Pickus

 

Mauthausen survivors cheer the soldiers of the Eleventh Armored Division of the U.S. Third Army one day after their actual liberation.

 

After a two-month stay in England, we left for Palestine on March 15. We landed in Tel Aviv on March 21, 1939. Two weeks after we arrived, my husband became ill with a mild attack of pleurisy. The pain in his legs became very intense. The pain was attributed to all the standing he had to do and the exertion of being in a concentration camp. On April 10 he got up for the first time again. We were sitting in the sun in the garden that morning for an hour; in the afternoon a heart attack ended his life.  And now I’m sitting here in Palestine on Mount Canaan without my beloved life partner, without my circle of friends, without having saved even a fraction of our property. Because of the war we have lost any hope that the transfer payment [for moving funds from Germany to Palestine] can be made. I am truly “Gone with the wind.”  And yet, despite the many hours of despair, despite the many hours of the most bitter attacks and the loss of faith, somewhere in the depths of my soul an absolutely unshakeable faith remains, impervious to all the terrible things that have happened to people: though we cannot see it with our eyes. This must, must all have a meaning.

JEWISH RESPONSES TO PERSECUTION
By Jürgen Mätthaus and Mark Roseman

 

Adolf Hitler’s and Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler’s most vicious wartime accomplice, SS-Brigadeführer (Brigadier-General) Odilo Globocnik, although dying in the spring of 1945, was a genocidal killer who is virtually forgotten, including, strangely, by most Israelis and Poles. And this despite having been one of the most bestial murderers of Jews and Poles that the 20th century was to produce. He was intricately involved in the planning and administration of the mass killing of at least 1.5 million and perhaps as many as two million people in three specially constructed but out-of-the-way killing centers – Treblinka, Sobibor, and Belzec – erected in occupied Poland to exterminate the Jews…

Brigadier Guy Wheeler described Globocnik’s ignominious end… “On the 30th May 1945, Lieutenant W. K. Hedley received information from an SS deserter that important SS officers were hiding temporarily in a mountain hut overlooking one of the lakes in the mountains just south of Paternion [Austria]…

“We drove out on the track to the lake. To avoid the noise of our vehicle alarming our quarry, we dismounted a mile or so back from where a steep and narrow path led up the hillside from the track. It took about four hours to get from the vehicles to the hut. We moved slowly and as quietly as we could and arrived at the hut just before dawn… The doors were kicked in and all the occupants were ordered out, to stand in a line, half-naked, with their hands on their heads, shivering; it was a chilly morning…

“Major Ramsay reported the success of the operation to Divisional HQ. After he had telephoned his message, he returned to the courtyard of the Schloss to start an interrogation of the prisoners. While Lieutenant Hedley had kept Globocnik in casual conversation, Ramsay, who had suspected the civilian to be lying about his identity, standing a short space between him, suddenly called his name. Globocnik half turned, then realizing that he had betrayed himself, bit on the poison phial which he had concealed in his mouth some time beforehand – collapsed and, despite the best efforts of our regimental surgeon, died very quickly.

HITLER’S MAN IN THE EAST – ODILO GLOBOCNIK
By Joseph Poprzeczny

 

The silence that prevailed in the fields of Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka after the dismantling of the camps did not last long. While the Germans sill controlled the area, and, to a greater extent, immediately after the liberation, in the summer of 1944, shameful scenes occurred on the sites of the former death camps. Rumors spread among the local population in the areas close to the camps, and even more distant places, that not all the bodies had been burned and that some of the victims had been buried with their clothes without having undergone a search. The informants claimed that in the seams and folds of the garments were hidden money, gold, and diamonds; there were also gold teeth that had been removed. It was further said that the Jews who had been prisoners in the camps had buried great treasures. This was more than enough to bring farmers swarming over the sites of the former death camps, digging and searching.

BELZEC, SOBIBOR, AND TREBLINKA
By Yitzhak Arad

 

A surprising proportion of the Nazi elite, including Himmler, Goering and Ribbentrop – plus technocrats such as Backe and Speer – harbored notions that they would prove so indispensable to the Allies in the post-war period that they would not just be spared but somehow be granted an active role, even a new career. They simply did not understand that certain of the Third Reich’s crimes, for which they as senior officials were clearly collectively responsible, were so extreme as to preclude forgiveness, in fact to demand their incarceration and punishment.

EXORCISING HITLER
By Frederick Taylor

 

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