Tuesday, December 6, 2011

BUCHENWALD KZ 1937-1945 Part 3


The entire life in the concentration camp was organized systematically in terms of largely potential cruelty. The detention camp should not cause the rapid death of the prisoners, but an agonizing procedure of breaking their spirit and total obedience. In addition to systematic atrocities in everyday life, the hard work and misery of the diet had the desired results. Clothing and housing and the so-called disciplinary and penal system, which had been developed at Esterwegen 1933/34 for the Dachau concentration camp and later introduced at all other encampments was applied and took a special role. During an interrogation the former camp commander Pister stated, "... all forms of punishment are  laid down in the regulation of concentration camps." According to these regulations prisoners had to be reported via a written message, which led to the determination of punishment. Already there was a gray area of arbitrarily and immediate reprisals that each SS-man, but also Kapos, block leaders and inspectors from the camp elders downwards could and would use at their "pleasure". These included harassment and punishment of standing at the gate building, where there were constant beatings, punishment of standing for hours at roll call, punitive measures like "sports" as the SS called the crawling, jumping and racing by prisoners on the parade ground. Particularly feared was the "hanging tree" (Baumhängen) in which the prisoner was tied by the hands bound behind the trunk above the ground and often stuck there until the arms jumped out of the joints and slowly after excruciating pain would loose conciseness .(see picture of Kurt Franz sic)

Punishment Order by Camp Commandant Karl Koch dtd. 29.4.38. to collectively withhold "Mittagessen" Lunch Meal on 1st May, for the entire camp. He gives his reason that inmates had recently stolen radishes as well as chive from the nursery . He added in his own handwriting that this "Announcement be made Lunchtime May 1st."
The remaining criminal reports that still exist  have shown that virtually any act which arose out of ones own initiative could be classified as rebellion or sabotage, ranging from failure to follow the greeting rules, dress codes and other rules of conduct, through the exchange of food, the natural production of vital goods and garments to the illicit eating and smoking, relieve yourselves to an unauthorized time,/[ yes, you guessed it, wet your pants or worse still have bowl movement  while standing at attention sic]/  such banalities followed more  serious offenses such as stealing bread, trying to escape or resistance to comply with an order resulting to more serious punishment. The sentence, the decision depended on  the commandant of the camp considering  mainly  the position of the affected inmate in the hierarchy of the camp, then on the severity of the offense and, finally, the number of already implemented punishments, which were recorded in the file.
The torture was multiplied with repeated offenses . Thus, the 16 year old Polish boy Kasimier Klusek did steal out of pure need,  for this he received 5 lashes, during the end of 1941 and as a further punishment he was transferred  into Stafkompanie (penal company), then he received another 10 lashes, and the last on 12th December 1941 with 25 strokes on the whipping block. Two weeks later he died.
Jewish prisoners at the mercy of the SS frequently punished the entire Jewish work detail (Arbeitskommando) or the whole barracks. Extra (Strafarbeit) punishment-work during the non-working hours and on Sundays was in the early years the preferred type of harassment by the SS. The prisoners had to do mostly demeaning or do heavy work especially within  the time and during the years of the building projects within the camp or in the nursery. Even the withdrawal of food, could be extended to all groups and was implemented by the SS especially in the period of commander Koch as a punishment. On May 1, 1938, for example, the food for the entire camp for lunch was withheld to emphasize the/[excuse sic] because supposedly the radishes had been stolen from the nursery. The allocated monetary allowance as net profits of such hungry days flowed directly into Koch's pocket.
The public beating of prisoners was now common occurrence on, and during work. For the purpose of corporal punishment, the SS had a wooden  frame specifically made, the so-called BLOCK whose function it was to shackle the prisoner's legs and torso. The official criminal regulations stipulated some 5 to 25 blows, and frequently the number increased arbitrary during punishments. Regularly at the evening roll calls beatings was performed by an SS guard, usually by the"Bunker Head", Martin Sommer,he beat his victims before the assembly of inmates with a leather strap on the bare buttocks. For the tortured this was attributable to the deep humiliation and shame, furthermore resulting usually in open, bleeding wounds, which healed only after weeks. For the second half of 1938 the names of 241 prisoners are known to have had beatings on the BLOCK.

Punishment sheet for Czeslaus P.......His offense:" Despite strictly forbidden he cut blankets and sacks /(Hessian sic)/ into pieces and made chest and neck warmers out of them. P. therefore committed sabotage of state property". He was sentenced to 15 lashes. He was a Polish political prisoner
Note : The charge sheet is very detailed and precise,/(a typical German habit sic) /even the doctor had to examine him if he could withstand and receive his punishment. Other Officers signed and authorized as it applied to their Departments and had to put their own written name as witnesses to the lashings. Who apparently performed the punishment was SS-Scharführer Sommer the Hangman of Buchenwald. /[I deviate here from the original and cite a resume of Martin Sommer sic]

[WALTER GERHARD MARTIN SOMMER was an SS Hauptscharführer (master sergeant) who served as a guard at the concentration camps of Dachau and Buchenwald. Sommer, known as the "Hangman of Buchenwald" was considered a depraved sadist who reportedly ordered two Austrian priests, Otto Neururer and Mathias Spannlang, crucified upside-down.
In 1943 Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler appointed SS judge Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen to investigate charges of cruelty and corruption at the Buchenwald camp. Due to his excessive brutality and sadism, Sommer was indicted and tried before Morgen. Commandant Karl Koch and his wife Ilse Koch were also put on trial.
According to Morgen, Sommer had a secret compartment underneath the floor under his desk. He kept his private instruments of torture concealed within this compartment such as the needles he used to kill his victims after he was done torturing them, he would inject them with carbolic acid, or inject air into their veins causing their death by embolism. On occasions, after private late night torture sessions Sommer would hide his victim's bodies under his bed until he could dispose of them in the morning.
Among his acts of depravity were beating a German pastor, hanging him naked outside in the winter then throwing buckets of water on him and letting him freeze to death. On another occasion Sommer beat a Catholic priest to death for performing the Sacrament of Penance for a fellow inmate.
After the SS trial Sommer received a reduction in rank and was sentenced to a penal battalion fighting on the Eastern Front where he was wounded in a tank explosion, losing his left arm and right leg. He was taken captive by the Red Army and was detained as as P.O.W. until 1950 when his prisoner status was changed and upgraded to war criminal. He was released from Soviet captivity in 1955 as part of the negotiations conducted on behalf of Soviet held German prisoners by Konrad Adenauer.
After his release he returned to West Germany where he married, fathered a child and filed for and received a pension for his service related disabilities. He escaped punishment for his crimes until 1957, when he was indicted for complicity in the death in 101 concentration camp inmates. In July 1958 in Bayreuth district court in West Germany where he was ultimately convicted of 25 deaths and received a life sentence. Upon appeal the case was upheld in May 1959 by the Federal Court. He died in 1988. sic]

"Martin Sommer picture taken 1935
After the flogging this often led the way directly into the "penal company". With almost tighter confinement in the punishment company, which existed from 1937 until early 1944, the SS punished those more often what they termed repeated violations of their own system or "regimental"  regime. Prisoners of the category "race defilers" and homosexuals as well as part of recidivist (second timers) prisoners remained there until their deaths. 1942/43, on average, 400 inmates were in the Strafkompanie (Penal Company)and an average of 190 prisoners in the "K- Company" which was established in October 1939 as a special department for criminal prisoners who were considered "war saboteurs". The inmates of the penal departments worked mostly in the quarry and in the nursery  under the worst possible conditions, longer than any others, with shorter breaks and as well on Sundays, so that they were working in the truest sense of the word until death released them of their misery.  In addition, they were not allowed to receive any money from their next of kin, just write a letter once a quarter, received reduced meals, were isolated from the rest of the camp and constantly harassed and cruelly  mistreated. The "K Company" by orders of the commander had daily punishment drills devised for some time after the evening roll call for two hours./[This  type of treatment is nothing new to me and it seems to have prevailed right  through the SS hierarchy outside KZ camps, I had SS-Instructors during my military training and was exposed to chicaneries, to give only one example, I was fastidious in washing my feet before going to bed, but was pulled up for being dirty, so the entire platoon was punished and we all had to run double quick into another building barefoot through the snow to wash our feet again sic/]   

The Punishment Block- Note this is a reconstruction and not the original Block, which was disposed off by commandant Pister during 1944, who had it burned
Even worse than the penal company was the arrest in the cells of the "bunker" where SS guard Martin Sommer ruled unhindered until early 1943, and usually without witnesses, he  sadistically tortured prisoners to death., he hanged them at the grill-bars, or killed them by injections of phenol or air. The official catalog of punishments for prison sentences was from 3 to 42 days in the cell, singly or in groups, in a standing position during the day, without an opportunity for sitting, in a dark cell, and generally on bread and water, this describes what was not nearly the level of all the cruelty that prevailed in the "bunker "
.Sommer tormented purely by personal inclination or tortured by order of the commander or officers of the Gestapo-"Political Department". As with the evangelical pastor Paul Schneider 1938/39 or the Communists Rudolf Opitz, 1939,  the whole camp had to witness the agonizing procedure of dying in the "bunker". Similarly, there was the sudden disappearances of detainees without ever seeing them again. About the circumstances surrounding the death of the Austrian priest Otto Neururer there is only oral testimony.
Buchenwald was the first concentration camp in which the death penalty was executed in public.On the 4th June 1938, they hanged on the parade ground after an escape and  recaptured the prisoners Emil Bargatzky, and  on the 21st  December Peter Forster. During  their joint escape, they had killed an SS man and were in due course by a special court in Weimar sentenced to death. From 1941, the executions usually took place in the crematorium

In the special camps that were built by the SS in 1938 and 1939 on the parade ground, it was here that the type of terror reached its most extreme forms, since it first arose after the anti-Jewish pogroms of 9 / 10 November 1938. On the orders of the Chief of the SD, Reinhard Heydrich the security police arrested in the following days all over Germany about 30,000 Jewish men and deported 26,000 to concentration camps. The aim was that they should be forced to abandon their property and to quickly leave the country. Between the10th and 14th November 9.828 Jews arrived in the concentration camp of Buchenwald.
The pogrom special camp, which was located from November 1938 to February 1939 west of the parade ground, and consisted of five barn-like temporary barracks, the barracks were numbered in Roman numericals from  I-A to V-A. This special zone was separated from the rest of other accommodations by barbed wire. Situated on about 10,000 square meters on a flat area next to the temporary barracks were two open latrines and a smaller building, which held the laundry provisionally until the middle of 1938. The temporary barracks resembled nothing like the usual prisoner accommodations. There was no separation between sleeping quarters and the living area, with no medical facilities, no heating, no windows and not even a foundation. There was only the bare ground which the rain had turned into mud. About the size and specification there are a number of different statements.
All extremes of the concentration camp Buchenwald, the narrowness, the water shortage and the SS-terror multiplied in the days after 10th November 1938 within the Special Zone. Although many of the detainees were quickly released again, under the provision to surrender their property and emigrate from Germany.  9,400 had been set free by early 1939, yet terror, hunger and disease to February 1939 had taken  252 lives.

Letter dated 21.12.38 from Klara Kaufmann to the Gestapo in Frankfurt am Main asking the where abouts of her husband. The SS in Buchenwald could not find Moritz Kaufmann. He was listed as an "unknown dead" cremated at the crematorium at Weimar, and recorded as an unknown deceased person. At a later stage a clerk found at the Weimar Registrar's Office, headed "Unknown Dead" an entry under the name M. Kaufmann died 18.11.1938.

On 7th September 1939 Heydrich directed  the detention of Jews of Polish origin. Thousands of so-called Eastern Jews were arrested and interned in Vienna in a sports stadium. 1.035 of them were deported to Buchenwald in early October. When they arrived at the camp, the SS had already begun the construction of the Special Zone. The first inmates were 110 Poles that arrived at the end of September in the camp were the SS tortured them to death over a period of several weeks.
The SS called them (Heckenschützen) "Bromberg snipers." This was a complex constructions of NS propaganda, as they relate to events in Bromberg (Bydgoszcz) at the outbreak of the war. On September 3, 1939, upon the withdrawal of Polish troops there were shootings and civilians were casualties in which as a consequence some of the German minority living there were also killed. The NS propaganda spread  the concept of "Bromberg Bloody Sunday". This was synonymous with the allegation of mass crimes of the Polish population of the German minority. The number of victims was estimated several times over. The exaggeration of the number and the rumor of the alleged murder that the Poles had committed served as a justification for a brutal retaliation and as a pretext for the expulsion of Poles from areas that fell to Poland after the Versailles Treaty in 1919. The NS propaganda unleashed by the hysteria surrounding the "Bromberg Bloody Sunday" that led to the destruction of the first incoming Polish prisoners in Buchenwald. They were kept in cage-like kennels made of boards and barbed wire and was blocked,(called the Rose Garden Kennels). There, they were left to starve and freeze unprotected against the encroaching cold. Only one of them survived the winter.[I did see the news reel "Bromberg Bloody Sunday" several times over as a youngster, aged 11, and believed every word of it, as this was our original ancestral land and some had remained there, only later did I found out that it was staged and professional actors had been used to make the film. sic]
The Special Zone, according to witness reports had an area of ​​100 by 200 meters, surrounded by a double barbed wire fence, by a height of eight feet. One sector was a parade ground, and another, as the entire area soon filled with excrement and waste was intended for those who could not appear for roll call. Still moribund, they were thrown into this enclosure. Not far away was the latrine, a brick-lined pit of six meters long by two meters wide.
In a wooden shack and four large tents, the SS herded the 1,035 Jews from Vienna including children under 18 years, and old men over 85 years and some 2,000 temporary Poles into these types of accommodations. At the end of October 1939 there was an outbreak of dysentery in the tents. Forced labor had to be abandoned . From the 2nd November all entering and leaving of the the camp came under the special punishment provision. On November 4th , there was an exemplary public flogging of one in ten inmates taken at random because the ban had been violated. From the 9th November all camp food was withdrawn completely on several consecutive days, affecting the Jewish prisoners. The SS reduced the rations of non-workers from the normal 200 to 300 grams of bread daily, to165 and even as low as100 grams, the soup ration which consisted of 1 liter was reduced to 3 / 4 of a liter without potatoes and vegetables. The square which was sealed off from the rest of camp has to be considered  the site of the first mass deaths of Jews and Poles in the Buchenwald concentration camp, having all the features of a premeditated mass murder. Within three months,  under conditions of the terror and  hunger about four hundred Viennese Jews, over one hundred Polish Jews and approximately three hundred Poles, that is about 40 percent of the inmates that died. A total of probably only one third after the closure of the special camp in February 1940 have survived.

Special Index Card used for inmates of the Pogrom Camp 1938. It is clearly marked JUDE  the German word for Jew. In this case Hermann Nathan was taken into custody according to "Jew Action dated 10.11.38 on that same day by the Kassel Authorities and was transferred to Buchenwald one day later. His stay was short as he was released on December 7th 1938, he was married with two children. His religion is given as "mos" meaning he is a son of Moses.

Maltreatment were everywhere on the agenda, but one job was simply considered  as hell: the quarry. There, most of the prisoners had to survive their first few weeks, and that's where  the penal companies worked. In the first months of the camp's construction there were two quarries, one of which was closed by  the SS in 1937 because of a lack of sufficient quality, (a poor grade) and output. The second quarry recovered only  limestone and was not, as planned suitable to sell to the Weimar construction companies, but served only as  gravel packing for roads or for the foundations of the buildings on the Ettersberg hill itself. This was also one reason that the SS showed minimal  interest in the economy of that quarry. Until the war years, she sat there, not one machine was ever used but left all the stone-work and breaking of boulders, and pulling of carts loaded from the quarry, the carrying of stones to the  body strength of the inmates.
From 1941 to 1942 Johann Herzog was one of many Foreign Legionnaires  who were imprisoned as political prisoners in Buchenwald and became a  Kapo in the quarry. As a 17 year old he had volunteered for the French Foreign Legion and served until the mid-30s, among others in Algiers, Morocco, Indochina and was taken upon arrival in Germany into "protective custody". In May 1939 he was transferred to Buchenwald, where he received in 1940 (a professional  bricklayer) the position as buyer for the camp store, and rose as a Kapo for an external command  and later as a Kapo in the quarry, where he acquired the reputation of special cruelty towards Jewish prisoners, Intellectuals  and clergy by beating the prisoners, who had to pull the daily 50 heavily-laden carts from the sole of the quarry  with sticks and shovel handles, until they broke. In July he struck at a Catholic Priest until he was lifeless before his "Kapo-shed" and let him lie there.  A dysentery Pole, he drove with blows into the outer cordon where he was shot by the guards. At the end of 1942 the Gestapo released him from the camp.

The Quarry during 1943, in the background the buildings of the SS Garrisons

The quarry was a favorite place of the SS to murder inmates during "Fluchtversuch" (Killed during escape). On the 9th November 1939, the SS shot 21 Jewish prisoners in retaliation for the assassination attempt against Hitler in Munich Bürgerbräukeller.[/The attempt actually took place on November 8th 1939 as Hitler had brought for some reasons his speech forward, this was one reason why the second device that should have killed him did not go off in time which was initiated by Johann Georg Elser:: see comment below sic/] When, after the murder it was found that the shooting was not done on orders from above, a number of SS men rejected, to register as a shooter in the "Flight Logs". Then Koch held a survey among the others who still wanted to  sign. It reported more "shooters" as inmates that were murdered. The report of the International Camp Committee from 1945 states the following about the SS commando leaders responsible for quarry activities:[I have avoided eye witness comments as it is often stated that these are made to revenge and thus purely hearsay, but gladly provide them if requested sic] herbstolpmann@gmail.com

"Master Sergeant (Hauptscharführer) Blank, was one of the worst mass murderer of Buchenwald. Because of his command and his active help to others, the following people were shot during "Escape Attempts": The former Austro Justice Minister Winterstein. When Blank asked him to go towards the cordon, the latter asked him whether he could justify this because of the risks, well, Blank answered this with kicks. Winterstein lit a cigarette and smoking walked into the cordon posts. With the former Communist Reichstag Deputy Werner Scholen, Blank walked and talked for ten minutes with him amicably, then he shot him from the side with his revolver. The former Captain  Stahl was due to a special order of Blank's also pushed into the cordon who shattered his skull  with a dum-dum bullet. The political prisoner Rudi Arndt, who had 12 years in prison and concentration camps behind him, was due to a denunciation from convicted criminal Jews betrayed that he had illegally operated political discussions in the camp, also shot in the quarry on initiative of Blank.
Next was Hauptscharführer Hinkelmann an important figure in this bloody drama. He ran around constantly drunk, had a hysterical feminine voice and performed the worst business and shenanigans with the prisoners. On his account lay the deaths of many hundreds of people who had to carry all day long stones on the run to their destination. One of his favorite sayings was sneeringly to the harried beaten bloody victims with a grin: "Run faster then you're on target sooner." He, who was constantly in a drunken condition, was nothing less than a genius in inventing tortures. Hinkelmann forced old people to climb a pine tree, be sure to shake it until the poor fellow accompanied by Hinkelmann satanic laughter came tumbling down, and usually broke their necks or were admitted seriously injured into the hospital, where they died after a few days.
Under Hinkelmann's direction he had columns of stone porters carry for three weeks on the run, rocks from the stone quarry to the horse stables. The construction of this short 300-400 m
eters long road that was under construction costs 23 dead. "

As a Jew and a Communist, Sholem as immediately arrested after the seizure of power by the Nazis in 1933, held in "preventative custody" until he was deported to Buchenwald in 1938. He was part of a group of former Reichstag members held at Buchenwald, whose prominent status afforded them some degree of protection. However, in 1940, the SS singled out Scholem and another Jewish ex-Reichstag member, Ernst Heilmann, for execution; Heilmann was killed by injection, and Scholem was shot by Hauptscharführer Blank.sic/]

Elser was arrested by chance at 20:45, about 35 minutes before the bomb exploded, by the customs border police in Konstanz when he tried to cross the border into Switzerland. At first the officers did not suspect his involvement in the assassination attempt, but then they found picture postcards from the Bürgerbräukeller in Elser's coat. Elser was transferred to Munich, where he was interrogated by the Gestapo. Elser remained silent and denied any involvement in the explosion, but the evidence pointing to his complicity became increasingly clear. What finally pointed to Elser as the would-be assassin were his bruised, scraped knees. As it turned out, the hollow space in the column where the explosives had been hidden could only have been reached by an assassin crawling on his knees. Waitresses then identified Elser as a frequent patron of the Bürgerbräukeller, and he eventually confessed.
After his confession to the crime in Munich, Elser was taken to the headquarters of the German Reich's security agency in Berlin, where he was severely tortured by the Gestapo. The SS chief Heinrich Himmler was not satisfied that a diminutive Swabian, a craftsman with a grade-school education, could have almost managed to assassinate the Führer without accomplices. The protocol from the Gestapo was recovered at the end of the 1960s. This 203 page document is the most important source of information about Georg Elser. He was imprisoned in Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps. Although he consistently claimed to have been acting on his own, the Nazis, especially Goebbels persisted in suspecting a British-led conspiracy, and intended to stage a trial exposing this alleged plot after the war. Elser was kept in special custody. The mystery about the identity of this "special security prisoner" sometimes led to malicious rumors among his fellow inmates. Even after the war, Martin Niemöller, also in custody at Sachsenhausen, claimed that Elser had been a member of the SS and that the whole assassination attempt had been staged by the Nazis to portray Hitler as being protected by Providence. However, historical research  has confirmed that Elser acted completely alone, and no evidence involving the regime, or any outside group has been found.
Elser was killed by gunshot on 9 April 1945, in the Dachau concentration camp, just a few weeks before the end of war. A plaque dedicated to his memory in Königsbronn says:
“ I wanted to prevent even greater bloodshed through my deed "

Commemorative postage stamp of Georg Elser-Briefmarke
Damage done in the Bürgerbräukeller,
PS: After the assassination attempt Hitler used the expression "Die Vorsehung" implying, GOD meant  him to lead the German people to final victory during his numerous speeches throughout the war and brought a number of doubters into his orbit, including high church officials, that blessed and graced our weapons.


 "Wohin haben Sie geschossen?"
 "Auf den Hinterkopf."

 "Which way did you shoot?"
 "Behind the head."

SS-man Horst Dittrich
Herbert Stolpmann

New Zealand
December 2011

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.