Monday, 18 January 2016

1887-88: The Outrage at Auschwitz

Built in 1856, the original train station of the town of Auschwitz, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire
source: http://www.gazetakrakowska.pl/artykul/3853563,oswiecim-pkp-chca-wyburzyc-stary-dworzec-kolejowy-bo-jest-za-duzy-zdjecia-archiwalne,id,t.html

[From the Vienna Fremden Blatt, of November 14, 1889.)

At Wadomice, a town of Galicia, but little known, a trial is now taking place, the interest of which extends far over the limits of this monarchy. The crime imputed to the accused, "trade of emigrants to America," was committed by the same persons at the same time in Austria-Hungary and Germany. The prosecuting attorney, Tarnowsky, referring to this "trade," says in one part of his accusation that "there existed within the limits of Austria a territory which actually was beyond the reach of the law, where, in defiance of order and personal liberty, all kinds of tricks were played upon unfortunate emigrants." Nor did the prosecuting attorney omit to name the high officials who not only suffered this state of things to go on, but who, in some instances, even prompted the perpetration of these crimes.

As far as the police is concerned, it must be owned with shame that it lent a willing hand for a monthly remuneration or a certain percentage, and that, instead of preventing crimes, they committed them. In mitigation, however, it must be said that they were subject to the orders of the district authorities, whose instructions, as they allege, they simply carried out.

This trial also proves again the well-known fact that criminals are a fraternity, which is international and interconfessional. Polish, German, and Hungarian criminals here go hand in hand to cheat and rob Polish, German, and Hungarian emigrants. Christians and Jews for years carried on a nefarious traffic in human beings, selected alike from the ranks of Christians and Jews. Criminals flock together everywhere: they understand each other without regard to nationality and religion.

All the accused (sixty-five in number) were divided into 28 sections, and arraigned on the following charges: Violence and privation of personal liberty (par. 93), extortion (par. 98), abuse of official power (pars. 101 and 1021, accepting bribes (par. 104), bribing others (seduction) to abuse official power (par 105). robbery (par. 109), fraud (par. 197), false assumption of N official title (par. 199), concealment of deserters (par. 290), and inducing soldiers to desert (par. 222). The names of the principal offenders are: Julius Neumann, keeper of railway refreshment room at Auschwitz; Jacob Klausner, merchant; Simon Herz, cattle-dealer; Julius Lowenberg, merchant; Marcell Iwanicki, internal-revenue officer and chief of police; Adam Kastocki, custom-house official; Arthur Landau, merchant; Isaac Lunderer, merchant; Josef Eintracht, manufacturer of varnish; Herman Zeitlinger, railway door-keeper; Ernest Edward Zopoth, cashier at the railway station at Auschwitz, and Vienna Zwilling, farmer.


Inquiries made by the courts of justice show that emigration to America from some of the districts of Galicia has assumed gigantic dimensions. In proportion to emigration is the sale of farms and the spread of pauperism, and if the books of the agent of the Hamburg steam-ship line seized at Auschwitz show that from May. 1887, to July, 1888, the sum of 695,051 florins was received for passage tickets, after deduction of agent's provision, and that the agent of the North German Lloyd took in the course of two months 27,313 florins, the sums are by no means all enumerated which annually find their way abroad. The reason why Auschwitz was selected by the steam-ship lines as the main point where to establish their agencies in Galicia was because it is the only town which is in direct railway communication with the German sea-ports.

The most notorious of the agents appointed by the Hamburg Lino was the. leaseholder of the railway refreshment rooms at Auschwitz—Julius Neumann. His outrageous conduct at last attracted the attention of the railway company, who gave him the choice to either give up the agency or the lease of the restaurant. As the. former could flourish only as long as he was at the same time lease-holder of the restaurant, he made over the latter, "pro forma," in 1882 to Herz & Lowenberg, but remained as silent partner. In this way the first emigration company was started at Auschwitz. Their immense gains soon created competition, which reached its climax when the controller of the custom-house and the commissary of police formed a partnership with the railway cashier and the door-keeper, and established an agency for emigrants on the premises of the railway depot. No emigrant could escape them, because every passenger had to come in contact with one or the other of these officials. The last established agency authorized by the provincial government was that of Klausener, at Brodly, who was the agent of the Cunard Steam-ship Company.

For some time the competing companies, by reducing the fares and increasing the commission of their agents, tried to monopolize the trade each for itself, until in 1886 they formed a ring, regulated the prices, and consolidated the different companies under one firm, authorized by Government, and styled the "Hamburg Agency at Auschwitz." Competition having now come to an end, they could henceforth more effectually fleece the emigrants by charging arbitrary prices.


After consolidation had taken place, a system was organized to hire subagents, runners, and a force of men armed and provided with clubs, who had to escort the emigrants from the railway station to the hotel, owned by one of the company, where exorbitant prices were charged them for the poorest kind of accommodation, until the time had come for their departure.


We now come to the worst feature of the case. Railway officials, as well as police and revenue officers, were induced by the agents to give their aid, for a monthly pay, and they not only suffered this state of things to go on, but even took an active part in it. One Bezirkshauptmann (chief officer of the county) named Foderick, received an annual salary of 1,000 florins. Not only the Austrian officials allowed themselves to be bribed, but also the Prussian frontier guards accepted money from the agents. Nothing, in fact, was left undone to turn the stream of emigration to Auschwitz. Whenever emigrants refused to buy their tickets there or had already a ticket which had been sent to them from America, then the commissary of police appeared on the scene. This unscrupulous and avaricious official came to the railway station on the arrival of every train arrayed in full uniform, and had those emigrants pointed out to him by his agents, who accompanied the train, who had bought their tickets already or were going by other lines. They were then ordered to enter the office of the police commissary to show their documents and their money; and the tickets which they already had were confiscated, the commissary ordering them in his character of imperial royal police officer to purchase tickets at the imperial royal agency otherwise he would be compelled to arrest them and send them home again. Those who had no money to buy a second ticket were handed over to the police constables to be sent home.


After the opening of the Bremen agency, in May, 1888, the situation of the company became more difficult. A new philanthropist made his appearance on the stage, the owner of real estate and member of numerous corporations, Vincenz Zwilling. He was intrusted with the management of this agency in the fall of 1887 by the agent of the North German Lloyd at Krakow. At first he did not seem to be in a hurry to establish himself; he was probably negotiating  with the rival company to come to terms with him. When he found that his efforts in that direction were fruitless he mounted the high horse of patriotism and philanthropy and petitioned the provincial government, claiming to have been solicited by the gentry to take charge of the Bremen agency because he could no longer stand quietly and see the wicked doings of the Hamburg agency. To prevent the public, however, from mistaking the Bremen agency for the Hamburg agency, he demanded the closing of the latter. This request the authorities did not grant, but he was allowed to open his agency in May, 1888.

The commission which the company allowed him was 3½ florins for each passenger, guarantying him, aside from his annual income of 6,000 florins, with no other duty to perform except to sign his name to the passage ticket. Zwilling thereupon commenced to organize his clerical staff. He engaged none but persons who had gained their experience at the Hamburg agency, and who knew all their secrets. The energy displayed is proven by the fact that from May 10 to July 24 Zwilling received for commission 1,781 florins, and Zeitinger, his chief clerk, 400 florins. The struggle between the two competing agencies was a most desperate one, and fights were of frequent occurrence at remote villages, at railway stations, and in the cars between the representatives of rival agencies. The scenes at the railway depot at Auschwitz, where the armed runners of both agencies posted themselves to receive the emigrants, defy description. Blood flowed freely, each party trying to get possession of the emigrants, who thereby suffered as much as the runners themselves by being knocked about. After the fight was over each party drove its victims to its own agency.

The office of the Hamburg agency was divided off in the center by a railing, in front of which stood crowded together the emigrants, while behind it strutted a person attired in a fancy uniform, trying to make believe that he was an imperial official, while his clerks addressed him as "Herr Bezirkshauptmann." A picture of the Emperor, in life-size, adorned the wall, for the purpose of giving the room the air of an imperial office. Outside the door were posted several runners, with orders to let nobody in or out during proceedings. The emigrants were then told to hand over their documents and their cash, which they usually did without any remonstrance. Arbitrary prices were demanded for tickets. In case of refusal the commissary of police was sent for, who appeared in full uniform, and threatened with arrest and transportation home. If threats had no effect, he would slap their faces and threaten to hand them over to the military authorities for evading military duty. This would invariably have the desired result. If an emigrant was short of money, the agent would telegraph in the emigrant's name to the relatives to send some.

Nor did the robbery end here. One of the clerks, Halatek, conceived the idea of bringing an alarm-clock to the office, when immigrants were told that a telegram had to be sent to Hamburg to find out whether there was still a vacant berth. The alarm-clock was set in motion, and after a while an answer came back, for which the emigrant, as a matter of course, had to pay. Telegrams were also sent to the "American Emperor" to find out whether he would permit the landing of a certain emigrant. All these "telegrams" had to be paid for by the emigrant. Another trick to extort money was for one of the clerks to put on a fancy uniform and pretend to be a surgeon to examine the emigrants and find out whether they were fit to go to America. This "examination" also had to be paid for. Sometimes an emigrant was pronounced to be unfit and he was given to understand that by offering 10 florins the "surgeon" he would be passed, which was frequently done. Passports for America were also issued and charged for with 10 or 20 florins. At the Hotel de Zator, kept by one of the gang, the emigrants had to pay exorbitant prices for the poorest kind of accommodations. What was left to them in Austria was finally taken away from them when they reached Hamburg.

From May, 1887, to July, 1888, 5,799 persons, aged from twenty to thirty-two years and liable therefore to military duty, were taken from the population.

Finally, however, the catastrophe came. A week before the closing of both agencies the agents were threatened with criminal proceedings and the publication of each other's doings. At the beginning of July, 1888, the governor of the province of Galicia and the president of the police at Krakow, instructed a police officer to proceed to Auschwitz and make a full report. On his arrival there a last attempt was made to avert the impending ruin by Landerer, who tried to bribe the officer by offering him 50 florins and a valuable ring. The officer accepted both, and, after depositing them, reported everything to his superiors who, after investigation, arrested the whole gang. Three hundred and seventy-seven witnesses will give testimony at the main trial, during which no less than four hundred and thirty-nine letters and other communications will be read, among the latter two communications from the ministry of public defense; depositions of the Austro-Hungarian consulates in Bremen, Hamburg, and New York; statements made by the minister of war, and a letter of the ministry of the interior of the German Empire.

Quoted in: Report of the Select Committee on Immigration and Naturalization : and testimony taken
by the Committee on Immigration of the Senate and the Select Committee on Immigration and 
Naturalization of the House of Representatives under concurrent resolution of March 12, 1890,
51st Congress, 2nd Session, Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1891, pp. 946 - 949.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Ilse Koch's pickled penis collection

British musician Paul Weller of The Jam and The Style Council 

Music journalist Barry Cain writes in his 2007 book 77 Sulphate Strip about visiting the former Nazi concentration camp Dachau with the rock band The Jam in April 1977, and relates a extremely garbled story about Ilse Koch aka 'the Red Witch of Buchenwald' one of the band's entourage told him: 

In the camp museum, manager John Weller [Paul Weller's father] looks at a picture of Nazis burning books before the war. The caption runs: 'where books are burnt humans will be burnt in the end.' Henrich Heine.
He remembers a newspaper report at the end of the war detailing the surreal sex life of a woman SS commandant. Every time a new batch of prisoners arrived she would choose the most virile-looking and lay him that night. The following morning she'd whip him to death, cut off his penis and pickle it in a jar. When her home was raided by American soldiers they found a room full of jars. She was known as the 'preying mantis' 1 

Several years later, Weller's subsequent band The Style Council released a song called Ghosts of Dachau, which includes the line "Don't go to the showers".

1. Barry Cain, 77 Sulphate Strip: An Eye Witness Account of the Year that Changed Everything, Ellington, United Kingdom: Ovolo Books Ltd, 2007, p. 208. 

Saturday, 16 January 2016

The fake human-skin lampshade

This photo is taken from Benedikt Fahrnschon's 2012 MA thesis on the Belgian artist Luc Tuymans: 'The Representation of the Unrepresentable: Luc Tuymans' Altercation with Nazism and the Holocaust'. The photo shows a small lampshade that was displayed in the Buchenwald museum between 1954 to c.1993 and was passed off to visitors as being a "Lampshade made of human skin"
Below is a photo dated 1993 which I've taken from the Vad Vashem website. It shows the lampshade alongside a shrunken head in a display case at the Buchenwald memorial:

This lampshade was given to the museum by the communist Karl Straub, a former inmate at the camp who in 1946 became the administrator of the Buchenwald committee of the Association of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime, and following the opening of the memorial at Buchenwald in 1954, worked as a full-time tour guide at the former camp up until 1961. 
In 1992 Straub's "lampshade made of human skin" was sent to be tested by Prof. Dieter Leopold of the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the Medical Academy of  Erfurt, Germany; he had the following to say about it:
"Specimen IV (lampshade) is, by contrast, not serologically identified as to being from a human. In all likelihood we are dealing with a plastic that was produced for lampshades at that time. Ultimately, however, it cannot be completely ruled out that biological material is involved."
Soon afterwards the lampshade was removed from display and it presently resides in the museum's archives.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

1944: US Journalist unconvinced about Majdanek

Norbert Frei and Daniel de Luce

German historian Norbert Frei wrote of an interview he conducted with one of the western journalists who were invited to witness the presentation of the findings of the 'Polish-Soviet Extraordinary Commission for Investigating the Crimes Committed by the Germans in the Majdanek Extermination Camp':
"Dan De Luce, who participated in an August 1944 tour of the remains of Majdanek on behalf of the AP [Associated Press], explained in an interview with the author on May 7, 1986, that after the visit he remained distrustful of the Soviet information."
Immediately following his visit to Majdanek De Luce wrote the following article which contains information that he later admitted to finding distrustful. And he was right not to trust the Soviets. Numerous claims contained within the piece have now either been heavily reined in or abandoned entirely. Tomasz Kranz, the present director if the Majdanek museum, admitted in 2005 that the Polish-Soviet Extraordinary Commission "were motivated more by a political and propaganda agenda than by a search for historical truth."

1. Norbert Frei, "'Wir waren blind, ungläubig und langsam': Buchenwald, Dachau und die amerikanischen Medien im Frühjahr 1945" ('We were blind, unbelieving and slow': Buchenwald, Dachau and the American media in Spring 1945), Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte (Quarterly Journal for Contemporary History), vol. 35, issue 3, July 1987, p.387, footnote no. 5.
2. Tomasz Kranz, "Bookkeeping of Death and Prisoner Mortality at Majdanek", Yad Vashem Studies, 35:1, 2007, p.99, originally published in Polish in 2005.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

I punched a hole in a wall and escaped being gassed

Four more Holocaust survivors from Elie Wiesel's home-town of Sighet.
Klara Wizel (2nd from left), who was tattooed with the number A-7845 at Auschwitz-Birkenau on June 28, 1944, pictured with her two sisters—both of whom also survived Auschwitz—and brother Lazar, who survived the Holocaust by moving to Russia before it started.

In the 2014 book Auschwitz Escape: The Klara Wizel Story by Danny Naten and R. J. Gifford, we learn that during November 1944 a 17 year-old Wizel and approximately seventy other sickly-looking women and girls were selected for the gas chambers by the notorious Dr. Mengele whilst conducting an inspection of their barracks. 
They were marched immediately to the "bathhouse", where Wizel was given a black dress to wear, and they were all told to take a seat in the stadium-esque seating in the room (p.109) After a few hours, five big German guards burst in and ordered the women out:

We walked for a short period, until we came to a smaller brick-style building where we were shoved inside. Again, we were told to wait. A small bit of relief permeated the room. People gasped when they realized this wasn't the gas chamber but a small holding room next to it. But, I knew now, this was the end. The next door waiting for us, the next door we would go through would be the door entering the Auschwitz gas chamber. (p.112)

Despite being aware that they were in waiting-room for a homicidal gas chamber, except for Wizel, all seventy-odd of the other women and girls soon fell asleep.

I walked around and touched the walls. They were made of bricks, but not real bricks. They were the inferior kinds that were more dirt or adobe (earth and straw) than cement. Yes, I knew bricks from the days in my family’s dry goods business. I found a window out of view of the door, with bars, and I pushed on one of the bricks to see if I could get it to move. It didn't budge. I tried another, but again, nothing. Then I noticed that there were marks where it looked like another prisoner had dug around the bottom of one of the bricks. My hands shook, but I pushed and pulled at that brick.
I switched to rocking it back and forth, and it started to move. Once it was free, I used it to chip at the others. It took no time at all. The other bricks just pulled out, one after another. It was such a small passage, but my slender body slid under the iron, and I scrambled through the space, into the night.
I had escaped! I felt the fresh, cold air and a release from the horror. I wanted to live now, with all my heart. The freedom was so quick, so sudden, and so new that I forgot about dying. In a way, I had already died, so moving forward became the only option. I was still in the middle of the prison camp, and I still had an ordered death sentence from Mengele. They had my number. They had written it down. It was only a matter of time before they put me back into that room.

Wizel then escaped from Auschwitz-Birkenau by sneaking onto a train that was transferring 100 female prisoners to the womens forced-labour camp Mährisch Weisswasser (= Moravian White-Water; now in the Czech Rep.), a sub-camp of Gross-Rosen. On her arrival the Germans immediately put her in the camp hospital.

In her Auschwitz Chronicle 1939-1945 (H. Holt & Co: 1990) Danuta Czech details several separate transfers, totalling nearly 700 female Birkenau prisoners, to Gross-Rosen during November 1944, but for obvious reasons she doesn't list each of prisoner number (pp. 743-756). Wizel was possibly on one of these transports, if she did actually leave Birkenau during November 1944, and there is likely a document in the Auschwitz museum proving it.
Wizel's claim to have escaped Auschwitz is highly improbable, and her story about escaping a gas chamber waiting-room is obviously a complete fabrication. None of the alleged gas chambers at Birkenau had a mud-brick waiting-room as per her description, and regardless, according to the orthodox narrative: gassings ceased at Birkenau on November 2, 1944 (Ibid, p.743).

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Greville Janner denied Dachau's gas chamber

Former Labour Party politicians Tony Benn and Greville Janner, and Australian journalist Margaret Jones

In January 1982 Tony Benn said of journalists who criticised the train drivers who were members of the trade union ASLEF, and, in Benn's opinion, refused to write independently of their politically right-wing employers:
'Their role could be likened to the Jews in Dachau who herded other Jews into the gas chambers.'1
Benn later apologised for this comment,2 but not before his colleague Greville Janner criticised his analogy, claiming that it was inaccurate, because there were no gas chambers at Dachau. Greville was quoted in an article written by Margaret Jones:
Mr Benn should have known better. For one thing, as furious leaders of Britain's Jewish community pointed out, there were no gas chambers at Dachau.
The president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Mr Greville Janner, who is also MP for Leicester West, said he had received many protests. 
"It was a phrase which caused considerable offence: first because it was incredibly inept, second because it was inaccurate," he said.3
This would not be Janner's last faux pas when disseminating Holocaust "facts". In 2006 he claimed that 3,000,000 people were killed at Auschwitz.4 But in fairness to the recently deceased child molester, in 1982 the Dachau museum insisted that their homicidal gas chamber was never used, although they didn't say that they never had one.5

1. Tony Kushner "Offending the Memory? The Holocaust and Pressure Group Polictics" in Nadia Valman, Tony Kushner (eds.) Philosemitism, Antisemitism and 'the Jews': Perspectives from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century, Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishing, 2004, p.256, citing: The Times, January 26, 1982.
3. Margaret Jones "Benn's rhetoric angers Jews", The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday, February 1, 1982, p.4. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=VoVWAAAAIBAJ&sjid=o-YDAAAAIBAJ&pg=3303%2C21811
4. "... the vile Auschwitz concentration camp where the Nazis murdered more than three million victims", Greville Janner "People of all faiths must ensure that the Holocaust victims didn't die in vain", Daily Express, Thursday, January 26, 2006, p.10
5. "The gas chamber, which was camouflaged as a shower room, was never put into use." Barbara Distel, Ruth Jakusch (eds.), Jennifer Vernon (trans.), Concentration Camp Dachau 1933-1945 (13th Edition), Brussels: The International Dachau Committee, 1978, p.173. 

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Auschwitz privilege in West Germany

During a debate that took place at Harvard University in 1985, Romanian-born Jewish scholar Andrei Markovits told of how in 1964 he'd witnessed his cousin use his "Auschwitz bonus" to bully a West German police officer into ripping up a ticket that had been put on his illegally parked luxury car by accusing the policeman of being a Nazi and having washed with soap made from members of his family:

When my father and I first visited our relatives in Frankfurt in 1964, we found a parking ticket on our hosts' car as we exited from a movie theater. Irate about this, my father's cousin drove to the police station and demanded to speak to the officer who had penalized him for parking in a clearly prohibited area. Without attempting to justify his actions - indeed boasting of his contempt for what he called "this Nazi law" - he asked the officer in a hostile tone whether he (the officer) had taken showers during the war. When the startled policeman, who was probably in his mid-fifites, answered affirmatively, my father's cousin shot back: "Well I just wanted you to know that you washed with soap which you Nazis made out of my family." Shocked and speechless, the policeman tore up the parking ticket. My father's cousin, exiting triumphantly from this Frankfurt police station, had been the beneficiary of what has been called the "Auschwitz bonus," or as Günther Rühle, the Schauspielhaus' director was later to put it, the "Schonzeit" or "no hunting season." 
I remember distinctly being very upset hearing for the first time that Jews were made into soap by the Nazis. Confronting my father on this matter, he confirmed what I had taken to be hyperbole of his cousin's rather flamboyant style. I detected that my father was also upset about the parking ticket incident, though for different reasons than I was. In part, he was jealous that his cousin could cash in so profitably on this "Auschwitz bonus," which was non-existent in Austria. My father was also worried that in the not too distant future this "Auschwitz bonus" would be depleted in the Federal Republic as well, especially once police officers such as the one who rightfully penalized his cousin began to be drawn from a generation which was born after 1945. 

"Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Garbage, the City and Death: Renewed Antagonisms in the Complex Relationship between Jews and Germans in the Federal Republic of Germany", 
Andrei S. Markovits, Seyla Benhabib, Moishe Postone, New German Critique, No. 38, Special Issue on the German-Jewish Controversy, Spring-Summer, 1986, p.5.