Tuesday, September 4, 2012



Since Kaiserwald concentration camp was designed as a transit and collection camp, prisoners stayed there for a short period of its existence. A large portion of the detainees remained only a few days to weeks in the main camp, and then to be sent to another sub-camp. So it was not appropriate to establish a system of detainees-functionaries, which was standard procedure in the rest of the Reich organisational and structural wise. The trusties in Riga were recruited from the 200 survivors of the original 500 political and criminal prisoners which came from the concentration camp of Sachsenhausen for the construction of the camp. They were provided with the usual privileges of a prisoner functionary: Mostly they got a whip, but only for a separate and specific area of overcrowded barracks. In some cases, they were housed separately from other inmates and given better food. While the non-privileged prisoners marched out in the morning to work, they were exempt from hard labour and drove inmates to their jobs. They presented for many detainees, the real danger in the camp system. Besides monitoring and in parts overseeing the activities of other inmates, they were also engaged in the Administration and Labour-Assignments. Despite their powers, they were bound by the instructions of the SS and were under constant supervision themselves. Their particular relevance to the daily smooth running operation freed them from ill-treatment and harassment by the SS, but that did not stop them to beat and strike other inmates.
Using some prisoner reports, it is clear that the higher posts of the prisoner hierarchy were occupied exclusively by criminal inmates. There were in the men and women's camps occasionally block leaders of Jewish origin, of which former prisoners have positive memories. Block leaders were in the order of the functionary prisoners at the lowest level. The camp leader, the highest ranking of this order, and the Kapos wore blue suits, blue caps and boots (Schaftstiefel). All other 'Aryans' were given striped prison suits and were therefore referred to as zebras.

The armband of an Oberkapo"
The first Camp Elder was Reinhold Rosemeyer from Hannover. According to former prisoners, he was convicted of double murder, sent to life in prison and had already been interned for several years in concentration camps. At first, he was mistreating prisoners, but later he changed his attitude and largely supported them. In the early summer of 1944 he was transferred to the satellite camp Strasdenhof. In his place came Hans Bruhn, who at that time was one of the first that arrived as part of the Building Commando from Sachsenhausen in March 1943. He was a different type of 'fish', than Rosemeyer, apparently he viscously drove inmates during roll calls and at work, and took part in the Selection of those that would be transported for extermination. Former inmates describe him as a brutal and cruel man who abused prisoners at random. After the war, Bruhn was questioned as a witness in the trial of SS medical orderly Wisner and there was recognised by the former prisoner D., who accused him of his crimes in Kaiserwald and other sub-camps. In the course of these allegations, the court proceeded with new investigations, and more witnesses came forward that accused Bruhn of severe abuse. Witnesses remembered a prisoner abuse resulting in a death and how Bruhn at a selection of children had tossed them into trucks for deportation. The case against Bruhn was dropped, mainly due to the statutory time limitation since the offence took place. He also escaped conviction for manslaughter.
Willy Schlüter, a German criminal prisoners worked in the card index of labour input and managed the register of able-bodied prisoners. His immediate SS-superior was Hans Brüner. With the so-called "Stützpunktaussonderungen" [a military disguised acronym, literally: support-point-separation, sic] he set up transports together on orders of commander Brüner in view of the closure of the camp, and arrived himself with other prisoners in the satellite camps of Neuengamme and Hamburg Fuhlsbüttel.
An important role in the system of the prisoners took the foremen of the Arbeitskommnados (Working Details) who were in second place in the inmate hierarchy at Kaiserwald. This included a certain inmate by the name of Abel Xavier, known as "X", who because of car theft and other offences had already spent six years in prisons and camps. He behaved against inmates extremely inhumane and brutal. While working, he punched and kicked the prisoners into unconsciousness. A former inmate testified at a hearing that "X" and other trusties had tortured a prisoner to death. [Ber M. stated for the record that an inmate who poured his soup during mealtime away, at night he was taken to the prison kitchen, where he was beaten brutally by the prison functionaries: Rosemeyer, Hannes, Abel, and Filsinger. Then they put the prisoner upside down into a filled soup pot and drowned him, statement by: Ber, M. 1.4.1974, in: BArch Ludwigsburg, B 162/2985, page 2094. Kaufmann reports another case in which "X" would come and threw a worker into the Dvina River and with a beam struck her until she drowned. In Kaufmann, Churbn Latvia, page 330, sic]

Dvina River
As trusties Abel, as well as Schlüter, did indirectly participate in selections. At the direction of Brüner he searched for other victims that were shipped by trucks into the woods of Riga to be shot there. The women Sarah A., employed in the laundry testified that Abel, who otherwise was by all appearances just as brutal and sadistic with the last "Children's Action" in July 1944, but had been trying to rescue a child from certain death. He hid the little boy in a box, which he brought into the laundry. Brüner found that box, and the child was taken away. The deputy commander knew about Abel's affection, and he punished his otherwise always favoured inmate functionary with blows. In another case described by Werner N., from Berlin, that "X" had appointed him as his servant. "X" tried Werner N., at that time 23 years old, to shield him from hazardous assignments and to protect him from the base actions (Stützpunktselektionen). What the prisoner had to do in return, he does not mention. It also remains unclear why Abel was trying to protect some prisoners and not others. For a short term, probably at the beginning of 1944, "X" was working as Camp Elder at the sub-camp of Spilve. With one of the three evacuation transports Abel arrived in the summer/fall of 1944 at Stutthof. There it is said that he had been murdered before the liberation of the concentration camp, by fellow prisoners. [see: Ibid, page 319, sic]
Similarly, sadistic and brutal, former inmates describe the Polish Political Prisoner "Bolek" and the German Hannes Filsinger, also block leaders and foremen in the men's camp. Randomly, "Bolek" pushed prisoners while working, mainly elderly and the frail, into a pit (Grube) and beat those with a rubber truncheon who did not came out quickly enough. He was assigned to the protection block in which the exhausted and sick workers were staying from the sub-camp of Dondangen when that place was overcrowded. Because of a theft out of the storage building from prisoners belongings, he was relieved of his position as a Block Leader at the end of 1943.
Filsinger was responsible for the first block (Block one) and struck mercilessly at the slightest neglect of his instructions. One night he caught the then-16-year old Yakob Basner from the third block when using the latrine behind block one. He dragged him into the block and hit him in front of the assembled detainees countless times with a rubber truncheon to the naked buttocks. Then he ordered Basner to clean the latrine. Further harassments, not only to Basner also saw saw the Pole "Mikush" to it in his barracks, where he acted as a block leader. Mikush ordered the men in icy nights, to run half naked to the wash-room to take a shower there. Then he posted himself at the entrance, and let the men wait, wet in freezing temperatures outside the hut and checked when entering, the ears of any detainee. (This type of harassment of German Army Training which was common practice of showers, or washing of alleged dirty feet, running barefoot through snow, during my own training by SS Instructors almost nightly in January 1945, In Bistrita a Hohstina, (Bistritz am Hochstein) Checkoslovakia, two boys aged 16 to 18 committed suicide, they simply could not take it, so what was new?)
In addition to the male prison functionaries from July 1943 about 50 as "asocial" marked women from Ravensbrück women's camp arrived at Kaiserwald for some reason, but after only three months, they were returned to Ravensbrück concentration camp.

Jewish prisoners are issued food on a building site at Salaspils concentration camp in 1941 
The Israeli Nazi and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law of 1950, most famously used to prosecute Adolf Eichmann in 1961 and Ivan Demjanjuk in 1986, was originally introduced with the principal purpose of prosecuting Jewish collaborators with the Nazis. Between 1951 and 1964, approximately 40 trials were held, mostly of people alleged to have been Kapos. Fifteen are known to have resulted in convictions, but only sketchy details are known since the records were sealed in 1995 for a period of 70 years from the trial date. One person was convicted of crimes against humanity, which carried a mandatory death penalty, but the sentence was commuted to imprisonment.
A small number of kapos were prosecuted in East and West Germany. In a well-publicised 1968 case, two Auschwitz kapos were put on trial in Frankfurt. They were indicted for 189 murders and multiple assaults, found guilty of several murders, and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Historian Karin Orth writes: "There was hardly a measure of the SS so perfidious as its attempt to delegate the implementation of terror and violence to the victims.
The concentration camp system owed its stability in no small way to a cadre of kapos, who took over the daily operations of the camp, relieving the SS personnel. Thus, absolute power was ubiquitous. Without the delegation of power, the system of discipline and supervision would have promptly disintegrated. The rivalry over supervisory, administrative and warehouse functionary jobs was, for the SS, just a welcome opportunity to pit groups of prisoners against each other and keep them dependent. The normal prisoner, however, was at the mercy of a dual authority, the SS, who often hardly seemed to be at a camp, and the prisoner functionaries, who were always there." [After the war, the prosecution of Kapos as war criminals, particularly those who were Jewish, created an ethical dilemma which continues to this day. sic]

Admission and registration of new prisoners by the SS and prison functionaries always followed the same pattern. Within one to three days, the prisoners went through the Registry, the "Disinfection" and "Showers". At the end of this procedure, and the recording completed, the women or the men were either kept in the camp or further transported to other destinations.
The SS thugs drove the inhabitants of the Riga ghetto in stages from July to November 1943 to walk or took them by truck from the Moscow suburb to the main camp in the north of Riga. Their luggage was loaded onto trucks and brought to Kaiserwald at the collection centre and their belongings kept in the camps clothing store. [This is a contentious issue, private possessions of prisoners were meant to be kept secure until their release, yet individuals did in fact "enrich" themselves, knowing that inmates in most cases were doomed, SS-Audits were conducted, prosecutions did take place and executions carried out, one prominent example is the death sentence of Kommandant Koch of Buchenwald by firing squad, which was carried out by his own SS-men,sic] Guarded by the SS, they led them to be registered, left some behind, and those women, men and children fit for work, would take them back to their old jobs, by now designated as sub-camps.
Riga Central Prison, also known as the “Zentralka 
Under the German Occupation Authority, the terror and horror began on the night of 3 July 1941 when Jewish people were dragged from their homes where they were either arrested robbed beaten or just murdered. Those who were arrested were taken to the "Prefecture" Riga City Militia Department Headquarters located at Aspazijas bulvāris 7, the Riga Central Prison, also known as the “Zentralka” and the former abandoned Riga Police Precinct house located at Valdemāra “Krišjāna Valdemāra” iela 19 that was taken over by Viktors Arājs and his Security Group “Arājs Kommando” Unit in July 1941. “These places can be regarded as one of the main places of integration torture and murder during the summer of 1941”.

The prisoners from the Vilnius (Wilna) Ghetto and from Auschwitz were transported by rail to Kaiserwald. The conditions of the transport from Vilnius to Riga described by former prisoner Masha Rolnikaite: "It's hot and sticky, and I feel so miserable, if the wheels would not rattle so much, maybe someone would hear our cries and the guard would bring us a bit of water, we are suffocating ".
Not far from the camp, it was getting dark, people who clung to their luggage, were beaten out of the trains and running along a lighted path towards the camp gate. There, working prisoners were already waiting for the newcomers and greeted them with punches and kicks. They had to leave their luggage behind at a barrack. Following the roll-call-counting men and women were separated and shoved into different sections. In these dwellings the newcomers spent the first few nights on straw sacks upon the conclusion of the humiliating intake procedure. The roll call took place twice daily. Several hours, the prisoners were lined up in wind and rain on the assembly square. Who fell to the ground from exhaustion, was mistreated by the SS guards and forced to stand up. Even inside the accommodations did the prisoners experience the hardship and humiliation of everyday camp life. If they disregarded the smallest command of the guards, lashes rained down on them. "Leaving the barracks was forbidden. Conversations with each other banned" [ibid page 179, sic]. Behind the barracks water taps and latrines were located which could be visited only after notifying the staff. (This system applied to me as well as a POW, (and all others) when we were guarded by Polish concentration camp ex convicts recruited by the U.S. Army, you could not leave to relieve yourself unless permitted to do so, and it amused later on , WOJG Milton F. Plier, at Allach, when I always told them that I leave the store to go to the toilet, as it was not only drilled into you, but the original fear of being shot at was still upper in your mind, the Poles did, and shot two POW's in 1945 at Hohenbrunn near Munich, they have had good Masters). A little later, an SS man entered the barracks and told the prisoners to surrender their valuables which they carried. Since the SS assumed that the new arrivals had jewellery and money hidden in their body cavities, they ordered medical examinations. This was led mainly by camp doctor Krebsbach and SS medical orderly Wisner. Here, the women were forced to completely undress and go through a gauntlet of SS men who commented on this performance with snide remarks. In another case Wisner investigated Jewish women in a barrack where the women had to undress. Wisner then searched in a brutal and degrading manner in every orifice.

Store for Despoiled Possessions
Subsequently, the prisoners were led in small groups to register. After giving all the particulars to an office prisoner functionary which he noted. He entered the particulars on an index card and assigned the inmate number, which now had to be visible on their clothes. Following the prisoners in rows they were ordered to the so-called disinfection. In one of the rooms, they had to undress. "Then the door opened, and we were confronted by two German SS men with clubs in their hands. They cried.>"Raus! Raus! (Get out! Get out!"), with that the prisoners continued into the next room, where their heads were bald shaven by prisoners in blue fatigues. A former inmate described the scene: [...] "Horror. Silence. Nobody said a word. The men working there, were somehow ashamed, they were the only ones dressed between naked women, they, the prisoners, shaved the heads of women, the new convicts had their braids cut off, hairstyles vanished, the "crown of their beauty", their hair gone!" Bald shaven, the prisoners entered into the next room and were desperately looking for relatives and friends. A trooper distributed a bar of soap and asked the prisoners to stand under the shower heads that were set into the ceiling. When the water was turned on it was either ice cold or scalding hot.
After a short time the people were urged wet from the showers towards the exit, where they were issued by the attendants their clothing. This was performed in a mechanical way, without paying attention to the sizes, small or large. When one of us asks to be allowed to exchange a little dress for a bigger one, the attendant took her dress bashed her around her ears, and shouted at the women:> Trim that bacon from your hips, then the dress will fit! Next!<
After the entire block was assembled in the yard and all were counted again, the prisoners learned of their fates. Either they were driven in a run into the particular prison section for women and men or they were loaded onto waiting trucks that transported them for work assignments in one of the satellite camps.
With oil paint the front and back of the garments were ordered to be painted with large crosses and circles. The trousers had white vertical stripes. All the clothes had been provided with a yellow triangle and the inmate number. [See: Comments, Angrik / Klein, "Endlösung" in Riga, page 393, sic]

"Making Jews look like fools

Continued under Part 3

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