This Holocaust Author's Auschwitz Blog

This Holocaust Author's Auschwitz Blog

This blog describes my thoughts and experiences in visiting Auschwitz in September 2014, and Belzec, Majdanek and Sobibor in January 2016

I blogged my preparations for my visit, I posted daily during my visit to Poland...there are also my ongoing thoughts posted here; in the aftermath of my visit...
(Please note due to the sensitive nature of this blog, and the prevalence of trolls, comments have been blocked)

This Auschwitz Blog:

In the Steps of the CondemnedPosted by P.A. Draigh Wed, January 27, 2016 00:57:53
www.auschwitz.padraigh.co.uk

was never intended to be a mere Travelogue, nor was I going to become involved with any Political contentions along the way. My own search was into a journey back in time, to a place where People could be so abjectly abandoned as to be swept aside and burned. I most certainly was not in any sense going to be side tracked from that initial aim. My only wish was to share with those who would read the Books I have written on the subject of The Holocaust, and give them a sense of why I am involved so personally. Auschwitz-Birkenau remains the foremost tool by which a World can know the depths to which people can descend into an abyss of atrocity. The necessity to deliver what is an outrage for the 6,000,000 Jewish People, all too many of whom are interred in Poland itself, this is my sole objective. The essential to depict The Holocaust in an impartial way will clearly identify what Hitler sought out as his Final Solution and how that final resolve was all but completed.

This fact alone infringes also upon the concept of what civilises us. Auschwitz and Birkenau were an awe inspiring place of immense pain, suffering and grief for a Jewish World all but made to vanish, and certainly from within Poland. But what I have witnessed this time, wishing always to add toward my search for any form of comprehension in The Holocaust, has seen a Country riddled with Political and Church corruption’s. My visits to Belzec, Sobibor and Majdanek have made me think more resolutely of what The Holocaust has taught us, and what necessarily History needs to learn correctly from it. I have met some of the most wondrous people ever, oddly enough considering I am in Poland, they were all Polish. They were gracious, sympathetic, considerate, accommodating and filled with a charitable zeal that is infectious. Of course there are the few who would sully such a reference point, negatively.

But Society the world over has its own share of those whose intolerance trawls the gutter. I met a young man from Sri-Lanka, who was returning to his home in Oslo. He would not be becoming a Doctor. That is a real loss to those in need of any Medical attention. Tragically also, he would not be returning to education in Poland where his experience was less than mine, and all because my suntan needs to be paid for. We remember mostly those who inspire something in us which allows us never to forget them. That should not be marked by intolerance’s which do not inspire but recognise the difficulty some in this World have to endure with the bias, prejudice and an intolerable abuse rendered by lesser people.

This brand of racism is a very sad indictment upon any Student Body whose prospect for learning will be tinged with more than a certain partiality. Their prejudice and even a hate filled intolerance shows the less than positive lessons some have learned. Those many Polish people though, whom I came to know in my ever so brief stay, have proved as educationally diverse and culturally involved in matters both Nationally and Internationally as any people I have met in Europe. So when I consider that my own realisation of an other person’s differing experience in Poland, is an isolated case, it remains for me a little sad that all people cannot be tolerated. But what needs to be learned from such experiences as perhaps only Poles have experienced and witnessed, it would appear that there are still those who have not accepted the equality in all of us. But then, only Jews were so targeted that theirs was a certain and deadly fate.

Marta is a prime example of those Polish Citizens whose every endeavour ensured I got to see Sobibor when it seemed I might not. Her willingness to assist is a very great example of what Polish citizenry should be represented by, magnanimity and altruism. Sobibor was to be my last Death Camp visit and it all looked doubtful until Marta’s help enabled me to navigate the pitfalls of my own lack of appreciation for the Polish language. I couldn’t speak it! Also deserving of a mention, and of great credit here was Agata, various Agathe’s, Arleta, Ewa, Filip, Kasia, Magdalena Monika and also Tal. There are also many other’s, and I thank them all profusely for not just their good nature, struggling with my English, but for their time, their patience and for the sympathy I received for having placed upon myself a need to achieve what I had set out to do. My rather poor lost English abroad role, with so little Polish language skills, left me frustrated and with a requirement which placed demands on those I sought assistance from.

As my own inability to realise my shortcomings required compensating by those I came to rely upon, my journey would be a success and fulfil a wish to add experience to memory. As it happens, on my second day in Lublin, I could not pick up the transport necessary for my visit to the Belzec Death Camp. So on that day, this was January 14th., I busied myself in and around Lublin Castle and Lublin City Centre. I stood on the steps of Lublin Castle and judged where once a Jewish People was prosperous, viable and vital to Lublin society. That they no longer congregated amidst the clamour of those like myself seeking their way through the ruins of Jewish existence, I am uncertain as to how many now know the Jewish story as Lublin had seen it? From a spot just to the side of the main Castle rampart I could clearly make out, in the distance, the factory that stands beside Majdanek Death Camp. It struck me here and now that when Hans Frank demanded the destruction of Polish Jewry, from his seat in Cracow, he could state on April 12th. 1940:

"..Cracow has to become ..town most cleansed of Jews in ..General Gouvernment" Hans Frank.

Here, at Lublin Castle it was SS Gruppenfuhrer Odilo Globocnik who could see and even smell the scent of destruction, as he invariably watched the smoke of Extermination billow forth from Majdanek’s pyres and Krematoria. This present visit proves for me that Majdanek, as perhaps the lesser of The Death Camps in the General Gouvernment, was a significant find for acknowledging the overall Truth of The Holocaust. Majdanek remains of greater importance given its almost complete capture as a working, viable and capable Camp facility. Also, a result of this enforced stay in and around Lublin I met Tal. I was still wondering whether I would indeed get to Belzec when I was greeted warmly by her, after I had introduced myself to a group of Jewish tourists. And here their English proved more exemplary than my Hebrew, as did Tal’s English, which exposed my own lack of ability to speak to the Polish people in their own language.

"..I concluded Operation Reinhard which I had conducted in ..General Gouvernment and have liquidated all camps. A few SS men and Ukrainians remained in ..extermination camps. In Treblinka even a group of Jewish prisoners was left behind in order to dismantle ..huts ..fences ..and other camp installations. After completion of this work ..November 17th. 1943 ..last group of Jewish prisoners was shot in Treblinka." SS Gruppenfuhrer Odilo Globocnik.

I was asked to meet Tal at her office:

www.rootkatours.com

the following morning. Here, at what can only be described as a place of revelation, I walked though a doorway to a project of Christian Jewish Reconciliation. This grand scheme, which shone a light on a very dark period for Jewish Poland and Christian Poland, was an unexpected bonus for me. This Theatre group provides links for Jews and Poles to come together and resolve issues over their blighted past. For me, it feels that it might just provide the spur to other Jews to return to Lublin and perhaps occupy the same significant space in numbers as can be witnessed in Cracow? If the Brama project alone fosters a Jewish Polish inter cultural relationship of Tolerance, some lessons from The Holocaust will be being learned. Educationally, it seeks to:

"..bring students closer to the main issues, referring to life and Extermination of Jewish community in Lublin and its region."

WE clearly acknowledge that with a mere spark we can so easily light the way from whence 42,000 Lublin Jews were extinguished toward a clearer appreciation of what we have all lost because of this. The Theatre actively seeks to Remember the former presence of those Jewish Citizens removed from Poland to the Extermination sites. The Theatre’s effort is present at:

www.genntheatre.pl

This very specific portal is in need of a more fundamental recognition for its obviously well directed efforts. The Exhibitions on Lublin, Memory of the Place, Memory of the Righteous - Memory of Light and The Primer, Children in Majdanek Camp will provide the visitor an opportunity to see what Tolerance can enable. This Theatre is a progressive embodiment of what the essentials in learning from History should be. In order for us to take the best elements of that learning process into the future we need to learn accurate lessons from that past. This Theatre too is a clear signal from within a Country which is attempting to come to terms with what was achieved against its own Jewish neighbours. That Hitler established the Death Camps on Polish soil, and Slaughter was conducted by legions of Hitler’s acolytes, followers and lackey’s is no coincidence. On what has been a tremendous experience that I have enjoyed, this trip has been an eye opener in other ways too. With regard to what the Polish people are dealing with on a daily basis, theirs is a struggle which Europe appears to ignore or is unwilling to resolve.

Also, and in terms of what my own Church demands of Polish society, the young people of Poland have become disenfranchised and disillusioned with what Catholicism should mean. As Christ surely intended, so must my Church grasp and understand the fundamental need to adhere to a doctrine that is giving, altruistic and charitable. But then, Capitalism was never one of God’s commandments and as far as I know, is not endorsed by a young Christ upon seeing money lenders in the Synagogue. As for the Political arena, while Poles can be expected to work on subsistence level earnings, those who have the mandate from the very People they represent, resent those very same people who have presented them with that position of power. The politician has gained a strong financial means toward their own very personal ends which is oblivious to the plight of those they represent. As with the Church, which has laboured with what was happening to Jewish existence, 70 and 80 years ago, today, both Government and Church has begun the process of reneging upon its own Ministry and responsibility.

What these institutions have failed to administer, upon the learning processes of what History can still teach us, is the positive examples to take us forward, positively. The Polish Government it seems, and from all those Polish people I have spoken with who have confirmed this, is now embarking upon an impoverishment of its own people for their own very specific political ends. It would appear that Polish people go hungry, some say that they might even starve, so that an elite can set themselves up, just as Hitler did, to ensure the fittest can stand taller. As this political elite assume an arrogant posture and ignore their calling, their mandate and their duty is diminishing those very people they have sworn to represent. For me, the Theatre is an example of what we attempt to learn well and this should be an exercise the Polish and other Governments should apply to their own criteria for the representation they have undertaken. The Theatre is just across the way from the Hotel where I was staying:

www.domnapodwalu.pl

which loomed large as I passed Lublin Castle on the day I arrived in Lublin. This was on January 13th. and I was eager firstly to settle in and then get to the Death Camp at Majdanek. From Concentration Camp to Extermination centre, at the very heart of the Lublin environs, I found thoughts to the title of my next Book might be present from amongst three very different though competing themes. As I made my way from Lublin to all of the 3 Death Camps, as I am about to visit the scenes of such depravity and devastation, titles suggested themselves:

1) '..Trudging through the Snow in Search of Comprehension.'

and as I still found comprehension difficult to come by, it is a search that continues way past my departure from Poland. Whilst attempting to at least understand the insane deformity which allowed for a Society, both ‘civilised and cultured’, to follow a murderous route selected by an absolute lunatic, Adolf Hitler, History hardly defines the schism this causes with what has civilised humanity for thousands of years. The fundamental grasp as to what happened, what was allowed to happen, which I am still continually dealing with, strikes at the very core of what humanises us. As I journeyed, Poland was not only cold, it was freezing and even seemed forbidding. It was Snowing on each of those days I visited the 3 Death Camps of Belzec, Sobibor and Majdanek.

I visited Majdanek first, as it was nearer to my stay in Lublin and I could easily revisit it on any other day, given I had the time to do so. For me though, I always felt somehow that Belzec might hold the key to an understanding I had always sought with the terms I had already given for the work I had done on The Holocaust. The words I had used in anticipation of my own move to visit the sites of such monumental atrocity, would have a newer emphasis. As I moved closer toward my next destination, which was Belzec, I realised that I was literally walking:

2) '..In the Footsteps of The Jews of The Holocaust.'

We had sped along major routes which, while they sign posted the way to all of these Death Camps, we were passing Community’s where the entire Jewish presence had been extinguished. The signs to the many Towns that dotted the landscape along the way toward the Destruction of a humanity lost forever. Where the representative scores of places passed us by, here where the Jews of these Towns had been removed, resettled and then destroyed in the Death Camps, Jewish existence is no more. In places like Bialystok, Bitgoraj, Brodek, Chelm, Krasnik, Lubertow, Przemsyl, Radom, Tomaszew Lubelski, Warsaw, Wlodawa and Zamosc, entire Jewish Community’s which have had their very existence all but obliterated with Hitler’s extermination solution stand voided of all Jewish connection. It is significant that there are Book titles to resonate the concern History must show for what Hitler achieved in Poland against the Jewish People. They are simple titles like Belzec, Majdanek and Sobibor but with deep hidden meanings to penetrate an enlightenment we once called civilisation.

Belzec, Sobibor & Treblinka -- Yitzhak Arad.

Belzec -- Rudolf Reder.

Majdanek -- Anna Wisniewska.

Sobibor -- Marek Bem.

Sobibor, Ashes of -- Thomas 'Toivi' Blatt.

Sobibor, Escape from -- Richard Rashke.

Sobibor -- Jules Shelvis.

Other than these first two titles I was considering for my next work, both of which appeared to resonate with me, I was so profoundly and acutely aware, as I walked around Majdanek, Sobibor and especially Belzec that:

3) '..I Would Finally Emerge and I Would Get Back'

This was realised while those many 100’s of 1,000’s of Jews who entered these Death Camps did not. I had this deep sense that of the 600,000 Jews Murdered within Belzec, their final moments of life were restricted to a walk toward a Gassing Chamber and certain extinction. This was also true as I had witnessed in Majdanek, and would undoubtedly find at Sobibor as I indeed felt at Auschwitz and Birkenau a year previously. There is still much to be done to make people aware of the very fact of The Holocaust and I will continue in that quest:

Always to Remember, Never to Forget

and to Remind all of those willing to listen and understand why it is so wrong, that all told 6,000,000 Jews were Murdered because of a hatred. Hitler’s Final Solution should be seen, not as some might have it out of an ideology which was fabricated, but as a ruse by which Hitler could accomplish the greatest larceny in all of History. Alongside this monumental larceny there was the most unprecedented Destruction of so many Human Beings ever contemplated. I am deeply aware also that for many, The Holocaust is simply defined by Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is clear that the very existence of a further 5 Death Camps, all established by Hitler and all within Poland, is largely left along the margins for those who study the subject or who are personally connected in some way to those specific Death Camps. Also, as with all of Hitler’s Concentration Camps, the History of the mass Murder which Hitler established for the Jews, Poles and other’s, and all throughout his reign, cannot be simply explained by Belsen, Dachau or Sachsenhausen.

Nor will The Holocaust be fully explained by the depths to which mankind sank to as these 6 Death Camps plied their Genocidal trade. For me, what made The Holocaust possible was the ability of one man, Adolf Hitler, to be able to sway a Civilised acculturated nation, like the German people, into performing acts of such atrocity. Humanity then required a name to fix that outrage in our History. That genocidal term was characterised by Rafael Lemkin and from its very essence, the World has attempted for more than 70 years to comprehend the far reaches of The Holocaust. With the clear intention which Hitler alone perceived, conceived, contrived and ultimately achieved, 6,000,000 Jews of Europe were taken from all corners of Europe toward a Final Solution and were physically Slaughtered in that final resolve.

Accusingly, from the sheer absence of all too many objecting voices, Hitler found a seeming acquiescence in all that he would achieve. There was not too dissenting enough of a NO for Hitler and so Jewry in Europe paid too heavy a penalty. The Culture of an enlightened Germany has been savagely ripped apart and has been ceremonially laid to waste in a Poland riven with burial mounds, sites and scenes of atrocity. Here on foreign soil, where Hitler established these 6 Death Camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor and Treblinka, Poland was to become and is the graveyard of a Jewish pre-eminence now struggling to come to terms with what ‘christians’ did and allowed to be done. All too many Jews of Europe have been sacked from existence with a disregard that is barbarous, hideous and without precedence.

www.majdanek.eu

as it nestled merely 5 kilometres away, it seemed prudent to visit here first. The Death Camp itself was still intact. The Russian offensive had proved too swift and incisive for Hitler and there was no time for his SS minions to dismantle completely the evidence of what was perpetrated here. That first visit to a Death Camp on the fringes of a major City was a real eye opener. I had visited Auschwitz and Birkenau, which seemed set away from the local Towns. But not for the Majdanek Death Camp the concealment of Forest, distance or remoteness. I walked about the entire area and looked out on a vista that had community’s still vibrant and obviously in such close quarters as to be able to look in and see every single detail of the destructive process Majdanek undertook. This close proximity of Majdanek to Lublin was startling.

One cannot begin to imagine how such devastation can be imposed upon the Jewish People in a Death Camp over looked by the whole of Lublin. I thought rightly also that my visit to Majdanek on this first day would now allow for any difficulties I might encounter if Belzec could not be reached. As that proved to be the case on my second day in Lublin, it was fortuitous that Majdanek was indeed so close. Majdanek, where it has been previously suggested that more than 235,000 Jews were Slaughtered, had the capacity to achieve more than Hitler's aim. It is also suggested that during the time of its existence it was responsible for approximately 360,000 victims who had died or were murdered at Majdanek of which 120,000 of them Jews. Numbers play a strange note here, as it is essential that exactness is sought ahead of inflated terms for the true nature of the atrocity perpetrated.

"..Each furnace had only one retort ..independent ..fuelled by oil. ..could hold 2 to 5 corpses. ..daily capacity of 1 furnace was about 100 bodies ..burning round ..clock. ..burning of one load ..lasted about 1 hour." SS Unterscharfuhrer Erich Muhsfeldt.

www.belzec.eu

I did manage to get to Belzec on Friday 15th. and am greatly indebted to all those whose co-operation, commitment and advice got me toward Tomaszow Lubelski and from there to Belzec. It is a little sad that whilst I was in Tomaszow Lubelski, a Town which witnessed the vanishing of those of its own Jewish Neighbours, I could not spend more time there to look around this Town. Historically, with more than 1,500 of Tomaszow Lubelski’s Jews being removed and Murdered on February 25th. 1942, the Town is a key link to the Jewish extermination process. Less than a month later in March 1942, a further 300 Jews were ‘resettled’, destroyed, murdered. I took that exact same route now toward my next visit to Belzec. Belzec though was a quite extraordinarily moving experience. Having traipsed through the Snow for some 4 kilometres or so, I felt so aware that this was a journey all too many Jews had already made and 600,000 of them would Never return. My visit to Belzec was made all the more constructive an experience with the knowledge shared with the educator that is Ewa.

Not only was her knowledge of The Death Camp thorough and exact, but her willingness to ensure I gained enough from my visit is of immense credit to her dedication and professionalism. She had greeted me warmly and allowed me to take my steps through the site of an atrocity still to be accounted for. By the time I had walked the entire perimeter, and through the Crevice-Road back to the Ohel Niche, I was cold and drained. I felt I had made every attempt to see all that could be seen, even if the heavy snow fall had completely obliterated the poignancy of what had been set as The Memorial. I felt it poignantly that even this snow could not conceal what History knew had been conducted here at Belzec, and indeed at all the other x5 Death Camps. I walked till the cold took its toll upon me and I headed back to the shelter of the Museum Building. I had a welcome cup of Tea and Ewa then made all arrangements to ensure I made it back to Tomaszow Lubelski. She even instructed the Coach driver in Tomaszow Lubelski that I be taken back to Lublin.

I was on the road again, heading back to Lublin, past all of those same community’s lost in The Holocaust, and now lost in darkness. Thank You Ewa for what you did for me. Now though I was tired. I was cold, wet and hungry, but that is by no means a complaint. It seemed a reverent issue to put up with a little of the discomfort of a Polish Snow fall to pay tribute to those Jews who could no longer voice their concerns as to what was due to happen to them and what did happen to them. After my return to Lublin I set about organising my train of thought. But I had no time to be hungry. I was far too cold and busy for that. During the short period of its existence, The Death Camp Belzec with an SS cadre of about 30, assisted by more than 100 Ukrainian collaborators, achieved with the phenomenal account of 600,000 Murdered Jewish People, a place infamous in the midst of The Holocaust. Though the Belzec system involved was basic and bestial and 80,000 Jews alone were murdered in the first few week, it proved equal to its task.

"..beginning ..August 1942 until ..camp ..closed ..September 1943 I was in Belzec. ..gassing stopped ..end ..1942 ..snow ..already falling. ..unearthing ..cremation of ..corpses began. ..lasted ..November 1942 until March 1943. ..cremation ..day and night without interruption. At first ..burning took place at one site ..later on at two. One cremating site had ..capacity to burn 2,000 corpses in 24 hours. About four weeks after ..beginning of ..cremation operation ..second burning site ..erected. On ..average ..during 5 months ..about 300,000 corpses ..cremated and ..4 months at ..second burning site ..240,000 corpses. ..these are average estimations." SS Oberscharfuhrer Heinrich Gley.

The next morning I would be set for my last visit, which was to be to The Death Camp at Sobibor. However, I had a secret weapon this time round. I had arranged to meet Marta, whom I had met on my Journey to Lublin. She arranged to meet me in Wlodawa and from there we made our way to Sobibor:

www.sobibor.eu

The sheer expectation, ensuring that all The Death Camps were to be reached before I departed on January 17th., hinged now on my visit to Wlodawa, my meeting with Marta and a hope that, while the Sobibor Museum was to be closed, I could at least visit and take photographs of the actual area of The Death Camp. I arrived in Wlodawa, another Community whose more than 5,600 Jews had been decimated in the Sobibor Death Camp and surrounding area. In 1939, after the Germans had all but vanquished the Polish Army, more than 300 Jewish Prisoner’s of War were taken to Wlodawa and Murdered. This was followed by the destruction of over 2,000 Wlodawa Jews on May 23rd. 1942, sent to Sobibor. The following month, June 1942 more than 300 of Wlodawa’s Jewish Children were rounded up and Murdered. In October a major Aktionen, which saw 8,000 Jews of Wlodawa and the surrounding area dispatched to their destruction in Sobibor. 2,000 more of Wlodawa’s Jews were Murdered after they were ‘resettled’ on April 30th. 1943.

A revolt at Sobibor was led by some of these last of Wlodawa’s Jews as they were detrained at Sobibor. Their victory was short lived however, being shot and blown into pieces by the SS use of grenade’s. The remnants of the Jewish Community of Wlodawa, some 1,000 persons, were Murdered June 1943. The short journey from Wlodawa to Sobibor is a relatively short one. It was a treacherous one as we drove along snow covered roads and I am indebted to Marta’s Sister, Monika for making the journey possible. Of The Death Camps I had visited, only Sobibor has given that air of sought after secrecy which Hitler searched for in his Annihilation of The Jews of Europe. Sobibor is set in the middle of dense forest, well away from the Road, along a Railway line where a ramp links an opening in a forest clearing. Here is where the Destruction of those Jews to be ‘resettled’ there would be accomplished.

After trudging through a field of snow, it was with an eerie sense that I felt that not even the snow could keep from me what happened here at Sobibor. I felt that exact same certainty I had experienced at Belzec, and even in Majdanek, where the covering of snow, while blanketing all sites, could never conceal the truth of what had taken place. Nor could the snow prevent the awful feeling of desolation, desperation and tragedy. Nor the fact that so much was done by so few to so many Jews, this could not be ignored. So as to obliterate the very traces of Jewish existence, and the atrocity conducted upon them in these places, a cleansing operation was conducted. All that remains, under the soil of Belzec and Sobibor allows only for purely Archaeological digs to bring to the surface the evidence of Mass Destruction. Between May 1942 and October 1943 The Death Camp Sobibor was operational and with the use of x5 Gassing Chambers, the Murders of more than 250,000 Jews was accomplished. This extermination camp was for the almost exclusive destruction of those Jews sent there, though there were others who had been brought to the Camp for 'special treatment.' Sobibor was dismantled after the Uprising and closed down on October 14th. 1943.

"..I estimate ..number of Jews gassed at Sobibor ..about 350,000. In ..canteen at Sobibor I once overheard a conversation between Frenzel ..Stangl ..Wagner. ..discussing ..number of victims in ..extermination camps of Belzec ..Treblinka ..Sobibor and expressed ..regret ..Sobibor ..’came last’ ..in ..competition." SS Oberscharfuhrer Hermann Erich Bauer.

My visit to x3 more of the Death Camps that Hitler had erected in Poland was over, it was time to get back to Wlodowa and then embark on my return trip to Lublin. Before that though I was shown around a community which was grasping hold of the fact of that Jewish existence that had been extinguished. There were signs that the community was coming to terms with an immense loss. Catholic, Jewish and Orthodoxy faith was to be celebrated, recognised and an immense loss was still to be understood. After a meal at Atmosfera Caffee, where the hospitality was exemplary, the Food was a delight and I was finally thawing out, I had time to reflect. Before long though I was once more travelling back to Lublin. My Wlodawa stay had been a kind of whistle stop effort to ensure I had reached all x3 Death Camps. Now it was my intention to acknowledge, for my own Remembrance, what would be enhanced by this personal experience, I could now spend time thanking all of those who efforts made my trip the valued experience it became. The pieces on those specific Death Camps now visited will be delivered to the Blog in a little while. For the time being, my experience is gaining, my knowledge is growing and the words and Gallery is growing.

I stand corrected now! Marta, a Citizen of Wlodawa contacted me and pointed out that I had been mis-spelling the name of her Town. I have always attempted to do the right thing as far as correcting what is wrong and am happy to acknowledge that Wlodawa is the Town I visited en-route to The Sobibor Death Camp





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Re-Visiting The Past

In the Steps of the CondemnedPosted by Patrick Dempsey Thu, September 11, 2014 17:52:33

Day 33: Re-visiting The Past.

On this day in 1939, it is September 11th., and 560 of Ostrow’s Jews are murdered. Also, 12 of Karwodrza’s Jews are murdered while those who will lead the charge for The "Final Solution", Odilo Globocnik takes up his position when he is appointed HSSPF for Lublin. The awareness of Society of what it means for the Jews under Hitler’s terror does not escape the higher echelons of the Military! Admiral Wilhelm Canaris reports his own knowledge of atrocities to Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, Head of OKW.

"..end ..November 1940 ..8,000 ..were at ..Oswiecim camps. ..political prisoners ..criminal ..Jews. This last group ..persecuted most of all. Scarcely any of them came out alive. ..death notices. ..received. ..December 20,260 ..were sent. ..200 bodies ..being burned in ..crematorium each week." Polish Fortnightly Review.

However hard I might try to liken my journey to that of The Jews of Europe, for the removal of the Jews from their Birthplaces, from their homes and deprived of their livelihoods, they were to be dissolved of their very existence. Their arrival at sites like Babi-Yar, Belzec, Bikernicki, Birkenau, the Sister Camp to Auschwitz where I will soon visit, at Bronna Gora, Chelmno, Liepaja, Majdanek, Ponary, Sobibor, Sudikov or Treblinka there must have been some sense of foreboding that could not shelter them all from the fear of what might await them there. The mode of Transport was essentially different. For those Jews who resided close to the Camps and Killings sites, a forced march ensued.

For those whose proximity to Poland was hundreds or even thousands of Miles away, evacuation was to be a tortuous affair! For many of these Jewish Transports, there was the reality that Death and Destruction awaited them. All those who journeyed on, what had been called a ‘resettlement East,’ could not possibly have known what awaited all of them! For the Polish Jews the journey was far shorter for them, evacuated from a myriad of Cities, Towns, Villages, Shtetls a few miles or ten to their particular Destruction. Surely more of them would have known than say those Jews of Greece or Holland? Of course, for the Jews of France, Hungary, Italy or Norway the route was longer, the knowledge of what awaited them less certain but the ending was always going to be the same? Total Destruction.

I survey the scene as Parents jostle their Children to secure their safety amongst the crowds of others who might simply stumble across little limbs chasing siblings in between rows of Adults and seats crammed with the waiting throng!

1940 September 11th. Quanza refused leave to disembark Jewish refugees in America or Mexico. From the earliest, when it was still possible to save many of the Jews of Europe, Nations from across the globe refused to admit Refugee Jews inside their Borders. Not only were these Jews fleeing persecution, as History now tells us, they were fleeing the cold and calculated Extermination of their being! 1941 September 11th. 7,000 Rudel Jewish Men, Women and Children murdered in the Stasino Gravel Pit at Stolin. 953 Seirijai Jewish Men, Women and Children murdered. 155 Leipalingis Jewish Men, Women and Children murdered.

1943 September 11th. A transport from Berlin with 54 Jews arrives at Auschwitz and 45 of them, Jewish Men, Women and Their Children are immediately gassed. There are German raids against the Jews of Nice commencing and Stefan Symoneko escapes from Auschwitz. The Family 'transports' from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz mean the destruction of those formerly "protected status" Jews.

1944 September 11th. 598 Jews from Stutthof Concentration Camp arrive on the ramparts at Auschwitz. 596 Jewish Men, Women and Their Children are sent to be immediately gassed. While Chaim Weizmann pleads for the RAF to bomb the approaches to Auschwitz, Allied leaders make the case for not diverting Air Bombardment away from the strategic requirement of the War Effort. That demand does not mean that Auschwitz cannot be Bombed. But the Bombing of Auschwitz is related to the Manufacture of Oil and Rubber, not the relief of the Jews being Murdered there. British troops have now arrived in Holland and those Jews remaining can breathe a little more easily.

Though the title of my First book is Called Testimony and Fading Memory in The Holocaust, this Blog is not merely about Books, or even words within Books! It is about attributing a Moral perspective to an awful event in history which should be, Always Remembered; these are the Children of all of us. They were taken, ruthlessly. They were treated harshly. They were starved, deprived of all sustenance and comfort. They were often beaten and then they were deposited at a site which consumed them wholly, without mercy!

September 11th. 1942 Convoy 31. Max Flanenbaum Aged 2 years. Richard Frenkel Aged 2 years. Sylvain Frieder Aged 3 years. Herbert Fuchs Aged 3 years. Solange Grinsztejn Aged 2 years. Sylvain Kozulski Aged 4 years. Pierre Lublinski Aged 3 years. Myriam Moscowicz Aged 4 years. Therese Payouk Aged 2 years. Saloman Pinkas Aged 4 years. Esther Radomysler Aged 4 years. Robert Slomovitz Aged 2 years. Simone Slomovitz Aged 3 years. Renate Stieglitz Aged 4 years. Floride Weindling Aged 4 years.

A Book a Day, or so of suggested reading! 37: Elie Wiesel: Night.



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Arrived

In the Steps of the CondemnedPosted by Patrick Dempsey Wed, September 10, 2014 22:25:51

I have arrived in the City of Cracow and I have ventured forth, stepped back in time to an era which sees its Jewish population decimated by Hitler and his legions. Cracow was a City of over 56,000 Jews. Kazimierz was a Community vibrant with the heritage of the Jews of Cracow. I have raced past signs which are significant in the terms of The Holocaust, names like Bedzin, Bochnia and Sosnowiec. Each of these Towns housed a Ghetto in its own right, a holding pen for future decimation. Each one of these Ghetto’s was along the staging post toward Auschwitz, Birkenau, Belzec and even Sobibor. Some names of these Towns are more instantly recognised, as is the name of Cracow, the then Capital of Hitler’s General Government under Hans Frank.

There is the sign for Podgorze, which housed the Cracow Ghetto. The Ghetto itself is directly opposite the Kazimierz Jewish Quarter, and across the Vistula. Here, where some 16,000 Jews were confined within the Ghetto perimeter at any given time, nothing much makes you aware of the fact that a Ghetto existed here. There are many of these names known to those who have dealt in the fullest terms of an horrendous Slaughter, a Genocide fully visited upon any People that are all not so well known. The World knows of Auschwitz and indeed Birkenau, yet there are Towns and Villages, tiny Shtetl groupings communally housing their Jewish People all hoping to evade Nazi attention. Many of these Jewish Towns and Communities, that had disappeared into a History swamped by the devastating destruction of an entire Jewish People, have had their Jewish connection wiped from the face of Polish soil.

We race along, the signs pointing toward Tarnow! Toward Wadowice, which Pope John Paul II knew so intimately! These signposts I have recognised, as we speed past them and toward my Hotel, are a reminder of why we need to Remember and why we should all add a Testimony to those who have been taken from us. I am here amongst the History of that past, a History I have been steeped in for so many years, that its tenure has almost become known to me in a personal way! I am filled with a sense of awe as cobbled Streets and imposing buildings, once thriving with the sense of Jewish antecedence, of markets filled with Jewish peddlers, businesses once profiting the Polish economy and Jewish enterprise, all have had their Jewish identity removed from them.

I am a tired boy after my travels! I will join the fray tomorrow.

Night!

I have visited Auschwitz and Birkenau. I want to take time to gather My thoughts. Everything seems surreal. It is an awesome place. You feel like an intruder. You are walking across a desolate landscape. Desecrated. Empty. Remorseless. What you recognise from Books or Film has no bearing on what is here. They are merely a guide to what is such a realisation. 1,100,000 Murdered Jews are not to be found here. They have been eradicated by a Hitler whim, a hatred so intense, obliteration has newer meanings.

The journey along winding Roads itself is a reflection on what is my Historical research as we pass Communities which formerly Housed entire Jewish populations. Communities which witnessed all that the Polish people saw. The signs still spring forth as I am catapulted back in time. Babice, Bierun, Harmozc, Katowice, Tychy and on toward Oswiecim. We speed along watching a Video of The Liberation of Auschwitz. Surely this is meant to prepare the mind, but can it ready the soul for the searching questions we seek or the answers we can no longer deliver? It has always been my contention that only those who have suffered as a consequence of the very detail of The Holocaust, the selective processes which will lead to an eventual Slaughter or toward Survival for far too few, they are the ones who know!

As a result of what we come to learn, we can barely know of what it must have meant for those Jews, the 6,000,000 who perished or the some 200,000 Jews who Survived the Camp system. What can ever prepare the mind for the realisation of such a Catastrophe? I meet others who are making their own pilgrimage. I have so much to add, but I will bide my time. I will leave You with Gabby's thought as we journey through the Auschwitz Museum:

"..I wonder if my Grandmother's Hair is amongst this?"

as we pass by the collection of Human hair forming part of the exhibition. Out of respect we were asked not to take photos of the Human Hair, so I present to you instead the Prayer Shawls. It is a chilling reminder that not only were 1,100,000 Jews Murdered here, along with many others, but they have left behind a legacy of Families seeking to have answers to what happened to their loved ones, why it happened and why it was all allowed to happen.


The Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau



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Cracow (Krakow)

In the Steps of the CondemnedPosted by Patrick Dempsey Mon, August 25, 2014 08:46:08

Cracow (Krakow).

"..1,000 Jews from Moravska Ostrava. ..first station we reached was Cracow. I wish to add that we did not get any more water from ..early morning of ..17th; when ..people of Cracow wanted to offer us water they were chased away with lashes of ..whip by ..SD." Max Burger.

The Polish people have not forgotten, under Treaty with both Germany and Russia, that Poland was isolated, even side stepped and then overrun by both powers. Both acted in accord, in order to steal from Poland what was rightfully Poland’s, its Sovereignty. Lest we Forget, while some 2,800,000 Polish Jews were Murdered in The Holocaust, we cannot forget the penalty for being Polish under Hitler’s regime. Between 5.6 and 5.8 Million Poles were killed as a consequence of German aggression. These were not simply the facts of War, or even the collateral damage brought about by War. There was also an attempt by Hitler to destroy many vestiges of Polish culture, dissolve their Catholic and Slavic nature and eventually, even their presence.

"..Farewell ..Cracow. ..driven out ..like a dog. Will I ever see you again? This place ..so close to me. ..wept my heart out on my mother’s grave ..shed last tear on my father’s tombstone." Mordechai Gebirtig.

But that feeling is for another day, it is another page to be written! Here though, I will give a brief overview of what an impression Cracow and Poland and their People make upon Me during my stay. I will not forget the real reason I am here though, which is to place a stone before History which tells the World, that I will not Forget the 6,000,000 Murdered Jews of The Holocaust. In all that has happened to these 6,000,000 Jews of Europe, a newer tragedy must not beset their memory that would ignore the Fact that, having passed this way, every effort is being made to recall and name them. For those Jews, now consigned to History by a total indifference to their vibrancy and integrity, more and more of us will stand and deliver a posthumous Remembrance for them.

So Poland and Cracow will form part of the Narrative of the Holocaust, as it affected those Jews, who were Living and Breathing Cracovian’s at the time of Hitler’s invasion in 1939. Cracow had been occupied by Jews ever since the 14th. Century. Under the Nazi regime the City was situated in the General Government and lay on the River Vistula, some 60 kilometers West of Auschwitz. The Ghetto itself was established in March 1941 and was finally liquidated in May 1942. Cracow was one of the larger Ghettoes established by the Nazi regime and most of these Jews have been assigned to their deaths at the Auschwitz/Birkenau and Belzec death camps. Over the Centuries, and having survived numerous pogroms, some 57,000 to 64,000 Jews had established their existence here, and had grown in Influence and Commerce since the 14th. Century. These more than 57,000 Jews represented more than a quarter of the Town’s population and within 8 days of the German strike against Poland, the first killings were recorded around and about Cracow’s environs.

"..Old people ..women ..Children pass by ..like ghosts. ..old ..young ..some dressed ..some ..in their underwear. ..a blind old man ..eyes ..lost ..fighting ..with ..Germans. ..another elderly person ..with one leg ..on crutches. ..2 SS ..shout ..order for him to run. ..one comes from behind ..with ..butt of his rifle hits ..crutch. ..old man falls down. ..perhaps ..one ..among them unable to stand torturing people ..before their death. ..no such person in ..Cracow ghetto." Tadeusz Pankiewicz.

Close by, and situated merely 5 kilometers from Cracow was the labour camp of Plaszow. It was utilised mainly for the exploitation of the Jews. The Camp became the means by which fortunes were made for those who exploited the Jews before destroying them. It was established in October 1942 mainly for the War economy of the faltering Nazi state, but Plaszow grew well from all it could exploit from the Jews of the ‘Generalgovernment.’ Formed from a region of the conquered Polish territories, it was overseen by Governor Hans Frank who overlooked his Murderous empire from Cracow.

After the War, between November 24th. and December 22nd. 1947, for the varying crimes at Auschwitz, this would be remembered as The Auschwitz Trial, But only a small fraction of those former staff members of the camp would be charged with any crimes. That any might not be charged at all is unthinkable, but the unspeakable fact is that such crimes against those Jews and others held and then Destroyed within Auschwitz and Birkenau’s confines didn’t appear as essential a process as the re-building of a Country. Those convicted were 41 officials of varying rank and position within the Camp hierarchy. 23 defendants were sentenced to Death, those others were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment and 1 was acquitted and released.

01) Hans Aumeier: Death Sentence Executed January 28th. 1948.

02) August Bogusch: Death Sentence Executed January 28th. 1948.

03) Therese Brandl: Death Sentence Executed January 28th. 1948.

04) Fritz Buntrock: Death Sentence Executed January 28th. 1948.

05) Wilhelm Gehring: Death Sentence Executed January 28th. 1948.

06) Paul Gotze: Death Sentence Executed January 28th. 1948.

07) Maximilian Graebner: Death Sentence Executed January 28th. 1948.

08) Heinrich Josten: Death Sentence Executed January 28th. 1948.

09) Hermann Kirschner: Death Sentence Executed January 28th. 1948.

10) Josef Kollmer: Death Sentence Executed January 28th. 1948.

11) Franz Kraus: Death Sentence Executed January 28th. 1948.

12) Johann Kremer: Death Sentence Executed January 28th. 1948.

13) Otto Latsch: Death Sentence Executed January 28th. 1948.

14) Arthur Liebhenschel: Death Sentence Executed January 28th. 1948.

15) Herbert Ludwig: Death Sentence Executed January 28th. 1948.

16) Maria Mandel: Death Sentence Executed January 28th. 1948.

17) Karl Mockel: Death Sentence Executed January 28th. 1948.

18) Erich Muehsfeldt: Death Sentence Executed January 28th. 1948.

19) Kurt Mueller: Death Sentence Executed January 28th. 1948.

20) Ludwig Plagge: Death Sentence Executed January 28th. 1948.

21) Hans Schumacher: Death Sentence Executed January 28th. 1948.

22) Paul Szczurek: Death Sentence Executed January 28th. 1948.

"..In ..morning attended a special action from ..women's concentration camp .most dreadful of horrors. ..Thilo was right when he said to me that this is ..anus mundi. ,,Evening ..towards 8:00 attended another special action from Holland. Because of ..special rations they get a fifth of a liter of schnapps ..5 cigarettes ..100 gms. salami and bread ..men all clamour to take part in such actions. Today and tomorrow work." Johann Kremer.

23) Arthur Breitwieser: Life Imprisonment.

24) Luise Danz: Life Imprisonment.

25) Hans Koch: Life Imprisonment.

26) Anton Lechner: Life Imprisonment.

27) Adolf Medefind: Life Imprisonment.

28) Detlef Nebbe: Life Imprisonment.

29) Karl Seufert: Life Imprisonment.

30) Oswald Kaduk: 25 Years Imprisonment.

31) Alexander Bulow: 15 Years Imprisonment.

32) Hans Hofmann: 15 Years Imprisonment.

33) Hildegard Lachert: 15 Years Imprisonment.

34) Eduard Lorenz: 15 Years Imprisonment.

35) Alice Orlowski: 15 Years Imprisonment.

36) Franz Romeikat: 15 Years Imprisonment.

37) Johannes Weber: 15 Years Imprisonment.

38) Richard Schröder: 10 Years Imprisonment.

39) Erich Dinges: 5 Years Imprisonment.

40) Karl Jeschke: 3 Years Imprisonment.

41) Hans Munch: Acquitted.

".. order came that I ..had to take part in ..exterminations. ..Special treatment in ..terminology of ..concentration camp means physical extermination..gassing...they were gassed ..yes ..absolutely." Hans Munch.

A simple piece of mathematics here might explain a certain consternation with regard to Justice, or the lack of Justice for those consigned to the vagueries of The Holocaust. Here at Auschwitz and Birkenau, 1,100,000 Jews were Gassed, or were otherwise Murdered. The Cracow Trial represents an indictment for each of the Defendants which should have made them all culpable in these Murders. That 41 stood trial presents to the World an answerable case of over 26,000 Murdered Jews for each of those indicted. When we bring it down to its furthest level, and those who were executed, this represents one Perpetrator tried for every 50,000 Jews Murdered here. Where’s the Justice?



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A Word of Intention

In the Steps of the CondemnedPosted by Patrick Dempsey Fri, August 08, 2014 19:59:08

Quite chilling when You realise that this Mother is shielding her Infant Child from a bullet from an Einsatz Murdered. The image itself is Iconic and has been widely presented at it presents to the World an image which denounces all such crimes against Humanity! If this is what was meant to be the 'master race', then the World woke up a little late to find itself besieged by such imagery. The World shudders today to the further genocide that speaks with the same intolerable crimes that we witness here. These Murderers are on Hitler's mission. This is Ivangorod! These are Jews of Kiev being Murdered.

For those of you who have queried whether the Blog is up and Running, I will be Blogging to your heart's content from August 10th. This will give me a Month to prepare for The Auschwitz Blog, for real!

It is my intention to comment heavily on the Destructive capacity of the place known to History as Auschwitz, and Birkenau, which is somehow shaded by the awesome nature defined by her Sister Camp. There is the negative responses to all those Western powers who knew much and did little which is a resolve I wish to expand upon.

I will place a Stone within Auschwitz and Birkenau, and would gladly do so for any who so wished. In placing a Stone, those who come after will know, there are others who will Not forget what happened to the Jews within Auschitz and Birkenau, and toward the eventual Catastrophe that is The Holocaust Murders of 6,000,000 Jewish Men, Women and Their Children of Europe.

I have spent the last 20+ years living with this past, an Intolerable stain upon the conscience of Humanity! Such was the reign of Worldwide Indifference that Hitler moved with seeming impunity against an innocent Jewish People. I wish to confront that past as it faces us with a lesson we can all learn from, should we choose to learn from it. It is imperative, as a Christian, not to allow for the Intolerances and Indifference to that Jewish Struggle, to conform into a complicity many who resided alongside this Tragedy are rightly guilty of. I am here so as not to compromise my own belief, and in standing against this tide of past Intolerances and Indifference, I see and hear the same hatreds resurface!

I am to follow in the footsteps of Children! I will follow along the tracks of the Babies who are swathed in whatever a Parent has to keep them clothed, warmed and protected! I will walk a line which Countless Children traversed en-route to their extinction. These Children were corralled by a hate filled group set upon their demise. Children here cajoled by those Parents, Siblings, Aunts, Uncles, Friends and Neighbours who sought to deliver them toward whatever would meet them, with concern and more than Human Emotion could bear! The World woke to a Catastrophe of unparalleled Dimensions, and while a traumatised World was dealing with the after effects of a Second World War, the World of Jewry was decimated! Raphael Lemkin coined a term to encompass what Hitler had accomplished, and as we respond to Lemkin’s choice of the word, the knowledge of a near Total Genocide of The Jewish People has permeated our Lives ever since! World Humanity was bracing itself for an enormous Tragedy, a loss of between 50 and 60 Million People, some 2.5% of the World's Population. Yet still, the World had to acknowledge that the Destruction of 6,000,000 Jews of Europe, some 40% of World Jewry, was a calamity of unparalleled dimensions.

In that requirement to acknowledge that the ugly face of antisemitism has raged against the Jewish People and in which the term of The Holocaust has become a battle ground for deniers, and those fraudulent liars, what peace is allowed these Jews of Memory! Many have now called for a recovery of the unique place of these Jews, formed together in an Intolerable position. But newer Intolerances and the ability of a consistent Indifference to any Jewish struggle, plays squarely into the hands of a vociferous and bigoted racism! While I agree that Genocide cannot be retained as an exclusive term, surely The Holocaust can register for all History the uniqueness of that selection process which brought 6,000,000 Jews toward an eventual Destruction!

History now toys with the idea, because so many seek to corrupt The Holocaust term of its unique reference point. For many, who seek to adopt the State of Israel’s Hebrew word ‘Shoah’ as a newer emphasis that will allow for Jewish Remembrance of a particularly Jewish Catastrophe, this shirks the responsibility placed upon us all to see The Holocaust as a purely Jewish term. Linked clearly to the Yiddish ‘Chrubn,’ which strikes an accord with the Biblical identification of Abraham’s ‘Burnt Offering’, The Jews of The Holocaust reside on the periphery of what History seems hell bent upon allowing, for the term to diminish its relevance!

How does one relate to a Catastrophe of such an enormous Human significance? If I could borrow from the trauma of my Childhood it would be to look to a Mom whose entire World was crumbling before her! The Death of a Father, Sister and then Husband! In the wake of this two year spell of deep despair and sadness, the Deaths of Her two Daughters, My Sisters, was a body blow few could emerge from, unscathed. My Mom managed to do this, in order to ensure the well being of those four Children she was left with to bring up!

When my life appears settled, and I am looking for ways of expressing what life’s journey has meant to Me, a memory of those two young Sisters blended with the image of a 4 year old Jewish Girl, Tokele, and a relevance was bought into or borne out of! I cannot possibly know the grief of any one of those Jewish Parents whose terror was realised as they looked on. As they and Their Children were driven relentlessly toward Destruction, who could not feel their pangs of despair? Nothing compares to the Horror they witnessed, saw and were consumed by! My own, nor even My Mom’s deep despair could compare. I can only imagine that if My two Sisters had been taken under similar conditions of barbarity, then maybe I could write as if I could comprehend what those moments were like for far too many?





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