The Reader, which I vaguely recall reading the book but not the film, if I recall correctly revolves around a former female SS guard who is charged with neglected to let concentration camp inmates out of a church that has been set on fire during Allied air raids in the dying days of the war. Life photographer Margaret Bourke-White recounts a story near Leipzig that might have represented something similar in real life:
On the afternoon of the same day that Bill Walton and I had canvassed the City Hall, we had driven to the outskirts of Leipzig to hunt up an aircraft small-parts factory which had been an 8th Air Force bombing target […]
As we searched for the factory along a narrow country road bisecting ploughed fields, we began to smell a peculiar odor, quite different from anything in our experience. We followed the smell until we saw, across a small meadow, a ten-foot barbed-wire fence which, curiously, seemed to surround nothing at all. Parking the jeep, we ran through a small gate into the enclosure, and found ourselves standing at the edge of an acre of bones.
There was no one there; that is, there was no living person. But flying grotesquely over the patch of skulls and charred ribs, from a tall slender flag-pole, was a white surrender flag. There was eloquent testimony that the men who had been there so recently had not willing surrendered to death. Plunged into the four-foot wide barrier of close-meshed barbed wire were blackened human figures whose desperate attitudes showed their passionate attempts to break to freedom. Caught in the spiked coils, they had perished, flaming torches, as they tried to escape.
Nothing was left standing among the ashes, except the incongruous flag pole at the far edge. Dotting the ghastly mottled carpet which covered the area were dozens of identical little graniteware basins and among them a scattering of spoons. [Margaret Bourke-White in Walter Kempowski’s Swansong. pp 39-40]
Previous I have described how two of the supposed crematoria of Auschwitz-Birkenau were in fact bakeries, and I located the site of the genuine crematorium as most likely being located just outside the camp, behind the Central Sauna. This left a problem of the function of the Buchenwald crematorium, a building that shared very many structural features with Krema II and III of Birkenau. Simply put, its central location in the camp and structural similarity to the bakery/crematorium at Birkenau meant it in all probability was also a bakery (the crematorium ovens being installed after liberation from the 2 ovens found in Birkenau). So where, therefore, was the real crematorium located? Through a rather surprising series of steps this mystery is now also close to being solved. (more…)
I have posted previously how visiting American journalists were sceptical about what the Soviets alleged and happened at Babi Yar; what I wish to do now is examine the claims that in order to conceal the 34 000 bodies, the walls of the ravine were dynamited. The claim is repeated in many places and may have been a finding of the trial of Sonderkommando 4a by the West German courts. One reference will suffice here, War of Extermination: The German Military in WWII, edited by Hanse Heer et al, page 254; “Immediately following the massacre on 30 September, engineers blew up the edges of the ravine in order to cover the mass grave with stones and earth.” My view is the story about the about blowing up the walls of Babi Yar developed very early among resistance groups inside Nazi Germany, and when this claim is repeated it points not to an actual event but rather contaimination by pre-determined narrative which was never grounded in any sort of reality.
We have photographs allegedly immediately after the massacre and immediately after liberation and to my mind there is no trace of the use of explosives:
Recently my attention was drawn to an overall excellent article regarding Anton Pacholegg, a rather incredible witness from Dachau, and his testimony regarding human skin leather production at Dachau, which can be read here. Overall the biographical detail and the subsequent career of Anton Pacholegg makes Dr Joachim Neander’s article fascinating, although I would disagree with some points of interpretation.
Anton Pacholegg was also heavily involved with one of Dr Sigismund Rascher’s more infamous projects, the development of an anti-coagulant for the pre-surgical treatment of wounded soldiers, Polygal. The concept being that given this drug would greatly reduce bleeding and thereby improve survival prospects. Without doubt a worthwhile concept, a typical summary of this aspect of Rascher’s career might be as follows:
Another of Rascher’s major research efforts focused on the introduction of a pectin-based preparation, Polygal, to promte blood clotting. He predicted that the prophylactic use of Polygal tablets would reduce bleeding from wounds sustained in combat or during surgical procedures. The agent was also recommended for the control of spontaneous gastrointestinal and pulmonary hemorrhages. Combat woulds were simulated by the amputation of the viable extremities of camp prisoners without anesthesia or by shooting the prisoners through the neck and chest.
Rascher also claimed that oral premedication with Polygal minimized bleeding during major surgical procedures, rendering hemostatic clips or ligatures unnecessary and shortening operating times. He published an enthusiastic article about his clinical experiece with Polygal, withou specifying the nature of some of the trial in humans. The paper concluded. “The tests of this medicine “Polygal 10″ showed no failures under the most varied circumstances.” Rascher also formed a company to manufacture Polygal and used prisoners to work in the factory. (more…)
Some time back I posted about some odd features of one of the corpses at the liberation of Buchenwald : We are the Hollow Men. The gist of which was that one of the corpses presented seemed anatomically impossible in as much it appeared to have a hollow head. I would not claim enormous expertise in this subject, although I do possess an excellently functioning head of my own and also somehow managed to pass an undergraduate course in anatomy. There is, however, another liberation set of photos that has provoked my puzzlement and that is the Strasbourg Anatomical Institute skeletonn collection alleged procured by Professor August Hirt.
The liberation of the camps as deliberately and carefully scripted events has often interested me. Rarely is it possible to confirm suspicions that the footage presented may have be selected and shaped to give a misleading impression of what really was normal conditions in the KZ system. (more…)