A Visit to Auschwitz





Mr. Speer, a political historian, is a freelance writer. This semester he is teaching in China.

When you arrive in Auschwitz, you leave the train station and see just another small Polish town. Auschwitz is actually the name the Germans bestowed upon Oswiecim to make it more German. There is no scent in the air of human bodies being cremated, no SS officers dressed sharply, stopping to salute one another and say "Heil Hitler."

Thankfully, the memory of what was done here lives on through the museum at Auschwitz documenting the atrocities--horrors beyond belief. And a short drive away, one can go to Bierkenau and see the majority of the gas chambers and crematoria. The Nazis tried to destroy them before the camps were liberated by the Russians, but enough remains to clearly show they were not a mere collection of stones and bricks. Birkenau is where the infamous sadist Dr. Josef Mengele performed his "medical experiments" on prisoners.

Over one million Jews were exterminated here along with 23,000 gypsies who also were marked as unfit for the Third Reich. I came in on a train past abandoned old buildings that must have been stations at one time. A Nazi insignia was on one--it was new. The grass and weeds had grown tall. I kept thinking of Jews transported towards their death at the camps.

Walking onto the museum grounds at Auschwitz, it is overwhelming to see the large parking lot and the kiosks for food--hot dogs and ice cream. It gave the camp an amusement park aura. Other kiosks had books, mostly in Polish, and postcards. What I first found degrading, I later reconsidered as it takes several hours to see the museum. The postcards first shocked me as in bad taste. But I changed my mind when I saw that they depicted the unimaginable crimes that took place. They help to spread that truth where evil forces are denying that the Holocaust ever occurred.

Visitors included mostly Poles as they paid tribute to 75,000 Poles killed at the camps who resisted the occupation of their country. There was a kiosk where they could buy flowers and crosses to commemorate the Polish dead. There were also some French and a few Americans. And there were Japanese groups, armed with cameras. One could not help but wonder if they also visited Nanjing, Bataan, and Japanese POW camps from the War in the Pacific.
The museum, itself, seemed like nothing special until we got out into Auschwitz, itself. Auschwitz and Birkenbau were two nearby camps actually. As we entered the camp, there is a sign in German on an arch stating "Hard Work Will Make You Free." It sounds like a moral saying at a college. Those words were placed there by the camp commandant, the same man who said that prisoners only chance of getting out of Auschwitz was when their bodies burned in the crematoria and they went through the chimneys.

The residential buildings for the prisoners are made of brick. The camp deceivingly took on the aura of an elite Northeastern College with the brick facade. One could imagine, something like North Hall, South Hall inscribed on the buildings with earnest 18-year-olds from well-to-do families back East talking about their courses for the semester. It's easy to lose sight of the moment and think of some energetic American teens tossing a frisbee in front of the buildings, which look like dorms.

Dorms they were. For Jews deemed strong enough to work. Jews considered too weak upon arrival were immediately taken out of line and put on the death line. Those who survived the first death round were put to work--work that led to death, not freedom. They were housed in these "college" dormitories--stacked might be more like it. Lacking sanitary facilities, freezing in winter, the Nazis did everything they could to dehumanize them from tattooing numbers on their arms (who could visit here and ever look at body art quite the same way?) to confiscating any photos of family and any other personal valuables. Sooner or later, these "workers" would be chosen for the freedom of death.

In a couple of dormitories, there was the nightmarish evidence of the Holocaust. Survivors were prescient in sensing that there would be those in the future that would try to deny the reality of what happened in Auschwitz and elsewhere. They collected evidence after the camp was liberated by the Russians near the War's end in 1945.

Our guide, a young Polish woman, led us through room after room. One contained the hair of women whose heads were shaved just prior to their being gassed and cremated. The Nazis, never one to waste potential commercial opportunities, used the hair to make furniture, rugs, and socks for German soldiers. The most moving moment was the most unbelievable--stacks upon stacks of baby shoes. Children--including babies--were taken from their mothers and killed upon arrival. Of the something like 230,000 children at Auschwitz, 625 survived, according to our guide. How can this evidence ever be denied?

Then, of course, there were suitcases topped one upon the other, toothbrushes, glasses, prosthetic devices, and other personal effects. The Germans always looked for valuables in these objects, going so far as to take apart shoes to see if there was anything of value in the soles. There was no surprise that teeth were pulled to get at the gold fillings.

Auschwitz-Birkenau is not just a place for Jews and Poles to visit. Every human being from around the world should see the horrors that Nazi ideology and the Nazis, themselves, eagerly performed here. If the Allies had not won the war, or if V-E Day had been delayed for a substantial time, the killing machine would have gone on until virtually every Jew in continental Europe had been killed.

There is one bittersweet sight in the town, virtually hidden away. Before the war, there was an active Jewish community of 7,000 going back several hundred years. The Jews and Poles got along relatively well. There is a Jewish center commemorating the Jews of that period, built in a reconstructed Synagogue which the Nazis had used as a munitions center. The Jews had a rich and vibrant history and there was tremendous variety from the more traditional to the more modern.

There is an old Jewish cemetary there which the Nazis desecrated. They took the headstones and used the marble for construction elsewhere. The cemetary has been renovated in large part by local groups. The day I was there, there was a group of young Poles and Germans--all about 22, or so-- who volunteered to work in the cemetary for two weeks. Although anti-Semitism remains in Europe, there is no doubt that a new generation has emerged and been thriving for a long time. It was quite a beautiful site to see young Poles and Germans willing to give part of their summer for ostensibly a Jewish cause that actually goes far beyond the Jews to touch all.

The beautiful and active Jewish life in Poland have passed into history, never to return. Despite what the Nazis did at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Jewish people still survived. There were so-called "Righteous Gentiles" in the war, who helped the Jews flee the Nazis. They live on in the spirit of these younger people who wish to properly memorialize the Jews who dwelt for centuries in the small village of Oswiecim. No one could imagine what the future would bring.


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juan - 7/19/2004

please need the history and legend of ibm company. what is the most history of ibm in relation of employment & business


Ron Klein - 11/26/2003

All of you really miss the point. I am sure that each of you knows more 'facts' about Auschwitz and the Holocaust than I. What you have seemed to miss though is the sense and feel of it all. You may argue that sense and feel is not precise enough to reconstruct the hisrotical truth of what happened. You are wrong. In each of our lives the sense and feel of things is far more powerful than facts. And so it is with history. What is important is not whetehr Auschwitz-Birkenau was a labor camp or a death camp, or whether 500,000 or 6 million died; rather it is that horror perpetrated by some of us against others occurred and that the rest of us did nothing and millions suffered in a 'civilized' world. Argue if you will about 'facts' but do not obscure the truth which is in the feelings and the pain and our criminal neglect.


sherrie Luccarelli - 11/15/2003

hi im doing a report on the holocaust and i was trying to find some good photos for it and i couldnt seem to really find any but if you have any information that you think would help me please let me know if you would sorry to bother you.. thanxs


Josh Greenland - 10/13/2003

eom


F.H. Thomas - 10/13/2003


Thank you. A short rejoinder:

"I have been listening, but I haven't actually seen any evidence that you are interested in myths or corrections that do not have to do with Jews, but you do have some rather distorted views of Jews and Judaism".

Perhaps you have been selectively reading, Professor, or perhaps you are so obsessed with protecting any Jew from criticism, no matter how well deserved, that you cannot see the many other references. Granted that for this article about the mass deaths of Jews, "in camps, by gas", it is a little difficult to avoid the subject. In addition, your article obliquely attacking the Catholic clergy, from a cooly Jewish perspective, also made it difficult to totally avoid the subject there. But you ignore the discussions of the historical nexus of Scotch-Irish and Nigerian Americans in art, economics, and society, the commentaries on music, art and the interaction between the two, the comments on the duty of mourning our war dead, and very many detailed points of history on dozens of subjects. Most of these other interactions were very well commented on. If you cherry-pick your references, you get predictable results, Professor.

"I didn't say that you were wrong about Goldhagen; I've never read his book, and I'm inclined to think he overstated things, but that doesn't mean that the German people weren't anti-semitic, pro-Hitler or knowing contributers to systemic genocide of Jews, Gypsies, and others."

(Don't forget the German and other Communists, the largest group in the work camps after the Jews.)

I suggest that if you wish to comment on Goldhagen, you read both his book and the Birn/Finkelstein demolishment of it. Check the citations yourself. In almost every citation, Mr. Goldhagen lied about his sources. This is not "overstatement", it is systematic lying for the purpose of mass libel, and financial gain. I would also challenge your race baiting comment that the "German people (were) knowing contributers to systemic genocide", which is totally contrary to history. As Thomas Fleming points out in great detail, in "The New Dealers War", Hitler went to extraordinary lengths to disguise what was being planned, from his people. The reports of what was being done came from horrified Germans in his administration, through the OSS in Switzerland, and the UK. Why would "executioners" do that, Professor? You are close to being as racially libellous as Goldhagen, and that does not help the cause of reconciliation. I would suggest that you change your course to make it accurate.

"You asked about patterns. Patterns are about groups. Picking out individuals, particularly self-critical ones, is not evidence of affection, or even neutrality. "Some of my best friends....""

In this case, the pattern goes a lot further, where Israel is concerned. I refer you to Mr. Finkelstein's "Image and Reality...". etc. Dershewitz copied from a previous fraud, the 1984 work, "From Time Immemorial", by Joan Peters, which sought to justify Israel's military murders and land grabs by comically asserting that there were no Pelestinians there when the first Jew came ashore. A previous body of systematic lies was Abba Eban's series of bald assertions at the UN and at a tour of the US, that Israel was attacked in 1967, instead of surprize-attacking all of its neighbors, none of whom were mobilzed, or the earlier spin from Ben Gurion that Jewish terrorists had not mass-murdered the entire population of Quiriat Arba, and many other towns. In Eban's words, "The art of diplomacy is in making others believe what you do not necessarily believe yourself". This is a substantial body of myth which I did not create, but which must be corrected. Agreed?

The "some of my best friends" comment is unworthy and trite.

"I looked at Finkelstein's website and didn't see anything there that wasn't self-serving and no scholarship that didn't strike at the heart of some controversy or other."

Would you say the same of Ruth Bettina Birn?

Finkelstein is a moral man, and moral men are always troublesome to whatever heirarchy they belong to, vz: Socrates. Finkelstein got into this entire subject area, he says, because of a terrific mother who was of his mind, who could obviously be even-handed in her judgments. She was a work camp survivor, as was his father, and had been denied other than a pittance from the reparations which had been sucked up by "Jewish Organizations" who received the cash, who kept much of it for themselves and their officers. That would be enough to get me involved. How about you, Professor? (See: "The Holocaust Industry").

I still patiently wait...


Jonathan Dresner - 10/12/2003

Mr. Thomas writes: "Again, if you have been listening, you know that my objective is purely expungement of remaining myths about the 20th century generally, many of which are deeply corrosive and divisive, as a first step to the reconciliation which I so deeply feel is necessary in Western society. Where this includes myths or corrections even peripherally concerning Jews or the holocaust, you object every time."

I have been listening, but I haven't actually seen any evidence that you are interested in myths or corrections that do not have to do with Jews, but you do have some rather distorted views of Jews and Judaism. There are errors and distortions in all kinds of history, some of them deliberate and malicious. I didn't say that you were wrong about Goldhagen; I've never read his book, and I'm inclined to think he overstated things, but that doesn't mean that the German people weren't anti-semitic, pro-Hitler or knowing contributers to systemic genocide of Jews, Gypsies, and others (by the way, when I teach the Holocaust, I teach the whole Holocaust: 11 million dead through systematic genocide).

You asked about patterns. Patterns are about groups. Picking out individuals, particularly self-critical ones, is not evidence of affection, or even neutrality. "Some of my best friends...."

You asked about patterns. I looked at Finkelstein's website and didn't see anything there that wasn't self-serving and no scholarship that didn't strike at the heart of some controversy or other.


F.H. Thomas - 10/12/2003


Mr. Greenland, I believe that your disputation of my post is the most effective one possible, from the standpoint of debating tactics: I would characterize it as "change the subject and nibble around the edges".

What the heck, it inspires me so much that I'll rejoin:

"Sounds like you're talking about the holocaust deniers here. You'd have to be including amateurs in your definition of historian in that case, since to my knowledge no professional historians support that version of history."

This is changing the subject, sir, and actually, I was talking about these two nefarious drudges, not any other category.

Since you raise the point, please consider that asking everyone to endlessly parrot WW II Soviet and British propaganda based upon torture testimony, when the NY Times has published corrected information based upon primary and detailed sources, is inappropriate, is it not? It sounds as if you are demanding that everyone simply fib, to meet the standard you define, or they will be censured. Right? Besides, the truth is bad enough.

"Dershowitz is a law professor. Why would a book outside his field cause him professional problems?"

Dershewitz is on a Harvard faculty ethics committee, which has as its general policy that plagiarism and fraud are grounds for dismissal. He recently made a speech which enunciated this theme, while he was writing his book. Whoops...

Thanks for your comments on D-, most particularly re: torture. Comments like yours are a good way to know who has a heart and who does not. You obviously do.

"Who are you talking to, F.H.? Correct me if I'm wrong, but to my knowledge no one on this forum has called Finkelstein either of those things."

My comments are in the conditional sense, beginning with "I would ask that...", a fairly standard literary construct.

On the anecdotal level, I was at one of Norman's university talks recently, when he was harassed from the audience by a group of JDL types, who remind one of Hitler's brownshirts in tactics and attitude. He handled it very well, and very humorously, but yes, the a-word got in there. (It was as if they just could not help themselves, like Dr Strangelove. They were booed.) In the current situation, Dershewitz has used it, and certainly others have used it on this thread without justification. I was simply loosing a small preemptive attack, appropos my combat experience.

By the way, I did not go into any of the other well known pro-Israel literary frauds, but these two were hardly the first. Read Norman's "Image and Reality...". It's pretty devastating.

Why don't you have a chat with him, on his website?

Thank you again.






F.H. Thomas - 10/12/2003


Thank you, Professor. A short rejoinder, if I may:

"Errors and distortions happen all the time. Particularly when controversial issues are addressed, strong positions often result in one-sided arguments. The existence of poor scholarship, plagiarism, etc., is precisely why we have debates, reviews, etc."

You imply that knowing plagiarism on a massive scale, from a proven fruadulent source (Dershewitz) and systematic distortion of every single citation (Goldhagen), which Mr. Finkelstein's colleague Ruth Bettina Birn, in "A Nation on Trial", nailed about as hard as it is possible to nail it, are "errors and distortions which happen all the time". Not plausible, sir.

"Finkelstein is a self-promoting scandal-seeker (note: I think the same thing about Dershowitz most of the time) who greatly enjoys the controversy he stirs up. Apostasy is good business, as he himself has pointed out."

Thank you for your comments on Dershewitz, which I share. Mr. Finkestein's scholarly credentials, however, may exceed your own, as certainly do his published works, all well reviewed, and none of which have been discredited. Contrary to what you state, he is an utterly moral and honest man to my personal knowledge. Maybe you should have a talk with him sometime.

"Are you saying that Jews are less honest than other people? Come on, don't be coy. You use the terms "fraud" and "shakedown" pretty freely."

Why do you take disclosure of criminals within any group as an attack upon the entire group, a fundamental logical fallacy? How is that possible when I praised Finkelstein and Birn for the scrupulously honest researchers they are? If you have been paying any attention, sir, you know that my personal pantheon includes Chomsky in moral philosophy, Friedman in economic philosophy, and Mendelsohn-Bartholdi in music, hardly the mark of an "a-word", which is possibly the word you almost typed.

Again, if you have been listening, you know that my objective is purely expungement of remaining myths about the 20th century generally, many of which are deeply corrosive and divisive, as a first step to the reconciliation which I so deeply feel is necessary in Western society. Where this includes myths or corrections even peripherally concerning Jews or the holocaust, you object every time.

Professor, I ask again that you join with me, and others such as Prof Finkelstein in that objective. Correct me if you like, but let the dredge of the past fall away, as it eventually must.

Legalities: Dershewitz' behavior is criminal in all 50 states, though infrequently prosecuted, and in the federal court system as well. Dershewitz says he will sue Finkelstein, but he won't. In slander, truth is an absolute defense, and Dershewitz is not dumb enough to lose a big one publicly. Goldhagen merely lied about what all his sources said, which may or may not be criminal, depending upon intent. What do you think his intent was? Was it to mislead? Propagandize? Slander an entire people? Enable corrupt shakedowns of European countries contrary to the facts? All of the above?

I believe that the slander of an entire people, the Germans, for the purpose of an ongoing shakedown, is a crime against humanity. Don't you? I believe that the slander of another entire people, the Palestinians, for the purpose of stealing their land and killing them with impunity, is a crime against humanity. Don't you? Maybe we should apply the same standards to these two felons as we do to other felons.

Join with me, Professor.


Josh Greenland - 10/12/2003

"The second most foul sin a historian can commit is to deliberately and systematically lie about history.

"The first most foul sin is to do that to facilitate an even bigger crime."

Sounds like you're talking about the holocaust deniers here. You'd have to be including amateurs in your definition of historian in that case, since to my knowledge no professional historians support that version of history.

"For it, Dershewitz deservedly puts his Harvard professorship at risk."

Does he? Dershowitz is a law professor. Why would a book outside his field cause him professional problems?

Just my own conclusions, but Alan Dershowitz is a dirtbag who won't hesitate to lie to push any of his agendas. He advocates torture. He's scum in my book.

Daniel Goldhagen I know less about, but he may be an angry man who is caught up in his own partisanship. I'm not willing to equate him with someone as loathesome as Dershowitz without more information.

"One thing is sure. Finkelstein is one academic who will be able to stand before God with a stainless record. I would ask that the fanatic pro-Israeli fringe not refer to Mr. Finkelstein as "anti-semitic" or "holocaust denier"."

Who are you talking to, F.H.? Correct me if I'm wrong, but to my knowledge no one on this forum has called Finkelstein either of those things.


Jonathan Dresner - 10/11/2003

Mr. Thomas,

Errors and distortions happen all the time. Particularly when controversial issues are addressed, strong positions often result in one-sided arguments. The existence of poor scholarship, plagiarism, etc., is precisely why we have debates, reviews, etc. Finkelstein is a self-promoting scandal-seeker (note: I think the same thing about Dershowitz most of the time) who greatly enjoys the controversy he stirs up. Apostasy is good business, as he himself has pointed out.

Are you saying that Jews are less honest than other people? Come on, don't be coy. You use the terms "fraud" and "shakedown" pretty freely.


F.H. Thomas - 10/11/2003


The second most foul sin a historian can commit is to deliberately and systematically lie about history.

The first most foul sin is to do that to facilitate an even bigger crime.

The first of these two frauds occurred to facilitate the shakedown of the Swiss and German governments in the late 90's.

The second of these frauds occurred to get Sharon's Israel off the hook for its murderous treatment of the Palestinians, and the destruction of every peace effort.

For it, Dershewitz deservedly puts his Harvard professorship at risk.

Mr. Finkelstein's books, including "The Holocaust Industry: Reflections upon the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering", make this systematic methodology of extortion very clear.

One thing is sure. Finkelstein is one academic who will be able to stand before God with a stainless record. I would ask that the fanatic pro-Israeli fringe not refer to Mr. Finkelstein as "anti-semitic" or "holocaust denier". He's very Jewish, and his parents were in the holocaust, and survived.

Besides, I might just throw up.

To have died or suffered in the holocaust is a terrible thing. To have your memory and the memory of others smeared or distorted for financial or political gain is worse.

The Goldhagen fraud:

http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/id70.htm

The Dershewitz fraud:

http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/id142.htm


Diogenes can put down his lantern. We have his honest man.


F.H. Thomas - 10/11/2003


Mr. Lamovsky, I often find that your commentary is worth re-reading, and pondering. A couple of points came to mind regarding what we have discussed:

The record of documentary evidence on the Shoah is extremely spotty. In some areas, such as the Wannsee conference, it is as dramatic, compelling and cogent as it can get. For Auschwitz specifically, we have, thanks to the 1995 release former GRU/CHEKA cpatured files, almost complete information.

Information about the other labor camps was also included, but in less detail than Auschwitz. For the eastern camps, the hard information is rather thin. Perhaps this is because the jailers wanted it that way, or perhaps because the Soviets adopted the same methodology of the camps to their Gulag, and did not want to advertise. It is clear from the military correspondence, that the eastern camps were also labor camps of a sort. The use of inmates to maintain roads is mentioned, which must have been tantamount to a death sentence during the Russian winter.

The Third Reich is often misleadingly presented as a monolith, something no thoughtful historian would accept. To me is was a running series of turf and policy battles between strong men. For the student of the Shoah, one battle stands out:

Himmler vs Speer: A draw. Had Speer won, all the camps would have been manufacturing facilities, not just Auschwitz, Theresienstadt, Buchenwald and Dachau, and many lives might have been saved. Had Himmler won, all might have been little Treblinkas. Himmler's methods included the tactics of the Einsatzgrueppen, Speer's the tactics of manufacturing productivity and economic development.

At Wannsee, the battle between these sides was joined, but not decided. If you can, get a copy of the Austrian re-creation film, "The Wannsee Conference", (German with subtitles-try EBay) based upon the talented stenographer's literal record. Lange's report in this recreation is chilling, particularly when he clicks his heels and says, "Estland, Juedenfrei!", to Heydrich's acclaim. For the rest of the attendees, the conference was a turf war, and in this sense a microcosm of the regime.

Hitler's concept of "Endloesung" was at variance with common perception, and with many of his ministers, particularly Goebbels and Himmler, the "two horsemen of the Apocalypse", for European Jews. Until war with France was joined, Hitler's concept was to resettle European Jews in Madagascar. Afterward, his concept was permanent relocation to eastern Russia, as the term "Umsiedlungslager" implies. Hitler's concepts, whatever they were, were implemented by other, more brutal hands.

Mr. Lamovsky, I understand that you have said that you don't care exactly which Nazi was responsible, because the crime was so terrible, a sentiment which is fully comprehensible to me, and with which I wish to express my deepest sympathy.

My interest is reconciliation of the twentieth century, which, I firmly believe, will only come from an accurate retelling, minus wartime progaganda, Nuremburg perjury, postwar spin, Soviet self-exculpatory propaganda, etc. which, taken together, have made so much of this sobering history a tangle of silly myths. I think we need to publicly undo that tangle if we are to ever have peace, and to me, that end makes this hard task worthwhile. It even makes it worth enduring nonsensical epithets from the "nekulturni illiterati" of this world.

By preference, I would much rather talk about the rich interaction across the centuries of the Scotch-Irish and Nigerian Americans, the transition from graphic arts to musical arts as a main focus during the baroque, the root causes of the development of Rabbinical Judaism, or WW I as the source of the other evils of the 20th century, as we have recently and so interestingly done.

But, this article was not about those things.

Thank you for a wonderful contribution.


Josh Greenland - 10/10/2003

Mr. Thomas,
I'm not an academic and so I don't always hold to the conventions of an academic discussion. I call things the way I see them, and if you've found the words in my previous message too sharp or blunt, I'm sorry, but I meant everything I said there.

I don't know what exactly you mean by scholarly. I'm sure you mean well, but in two messages in other forums you posted a large number of anti-Semitic historical "facts" that were riddled with errors and untruths, which I went through item by item in my replies. I don't think you're always very scholarly in your choice of information source, especially when I consider the false claims of persecution of ethnic Germans that were among your listed "facts". That stuff read like you took it directly from Nazis and holocaust deniers. Sorry if that isn't a nice thing to have to say, but I've been around long enough that I know this stuff when I see it.

An example is your description of Sobibor as a "resettlement camp." Of course it was really a death camp, since Jews weren't ever resettled, just murdered:

http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/Holocaust/Sobibor.html
http://www.sobibor.info/

At one point you wrote "...your tactics imply that you have no facts to back up your position, which impression I know to be false in your case."

My choices in writing about this stuff actually reflect my great confidence in the overwhelming evidence for the Nazi program of mass murder against the Jews. I don't see a need to dig into a lot of primary sources or bone up on individual details that I'm not familiar with because modern historical knowledge tells us the holocaust happened. I would no sooner go out of my way to quibble about details I'm not familiar with with someone who says there was no Nazi mass murder program than I would do so when disputing with a flat earther or a creationist, because modern science tells us that the earth is round and that we evolved into what we are now over millions of years.

I don't think there are any academic historians of Nazi-occupied Europe who say there were no death camps. This is because what the holocaust deniers do is unethical, and yes, unscholarly. Unfortunately, they are the best analogy to Michael Bellesiles' writing in _Arming American_, cynically misusing primary sources when not making up facts altogether.

Now you say that you have no sympathy for Nazi Germany. I've seen none in anything you've written. And I can easily believe that you are not of German extraction, because you did not write your claim of German intellectual and creative superiority with any sense of kinship or pride.

I didn't realize that you were a libertarian, but that explains a few things. I know that some libertarian bookstores carry holocaust denying material and I've seen one libertarian publication (whose name I can't recall, but I read it in the early 1990s) that made objectifying and general statements about Jewish people. Among no libertarians can I ever recall hearing or reading any praise or sympathy for the Nazis. Even so, the utterances of anti-Semitic and holocaust denying libertarians are untrue and unpleasant enough. If you are taking their utterance to heart, I hope you are willing to consider why academic historians don't ever support their viewpoints.

And a final thought on healing: the Nazis are not gone, are not done with killing, and many of them would like to overthrow present governments and reinstitute mass extermination. I don't believe in healing the surface skin over a virulent infection, and we can't afford to ignore a malignant cancer, even if it is temporarily dormant. Today's Nazis need to be stopped and their lies denounced wherever they appear.


F.H. Thomas - 10/9/2003


Thanks, and remember that I will be watching hopefully to see what you can discover.

Remember Dionoges walking around in daylight, with a lantern, trying to find one honest and truthful man, or Thucidides telling us that history should not be the province of "the factions, but a thing of value for all generations". This is an old problem, and needs fine rational minds like yours to achieve a consensus on the century of mass murder and lies.



NYGuy - 10/9/2003

FH,

Thank you for your contribution to this link. I don't want to review Auschwitz again, but want to thank you for forcing us to focus on the facts. I know you have stimulated me to look closer at this period and it has resulted in my having a greater insight into a horrible period in human history. I don't believe you are denying that it happened or that human beings were denied a full life span.

Slave labor was indeed a significant part of the period and raises questions of its role in Hitler's plans, leading to a question of which is preferred a quick death or a drawn out horrible one. The answer should be neither, but that was not an option. Meanwhile, if we accept the saving of Jews by Schindler for work purposes than we have to believe that slave labor, and its horrors, was important for Germany.


In my early posts with you I too questioned how people are using this period for their own political purpose. And we see that the name of Black and IBM came up. Already learned people are saying that punch card technology was the same as computers implying a more sinister role for IBM. One of the fallacies in Black’s book is that people not machines take Census. The Government does the design of that Census. The machine does the tabulation.

I asked you about the time line for Hitler since there are those who said that Harriman and BBH were financing Hitler in 1927 before he came to power. Now that story is posted on an Islamic website out of England as truth. Such false history helps no one and is dangerous.

Is it possible that there were those who tried to benefit themselves by cooperating with the Nazis? The answer was yes and applied to some in a concentration camp as well as some in the business world.

But to write an entire book on flimsy analysis, or to try to create false impressions about normal business activities, and in the process try to paint Americans, many of who eventually died changing the situation in the world is disingenuous to say the least.

A memory that sticks with me is the blue numbered tattoo on the arm of a concentration survivor with whom I was taking a lab course. I have little doubt about what happened in Europe. What I am trying to do now is get a better understanding of what took place. Your comments have shown me that I have a lot more reading to do. Thank you FH.


F.H. Thomas - 10/9/2003


"Which two (types of) camps do you mean?"

I referred to your following statement:

"I believe that the difference between grassroots German versus Slav attitudes toward Jews was one strong reason for putting the death-camps in Eastern Europe. And no, not all concentration camps were extermination camps."

By the way, the two types of camps were referred to as "Arbeitslager", or "work camps", and "Umsiedlungslager", or "resettlement camps" in contemporaneous German correspondence. The latter included the Belorussian and Ukranian-staffed camps, which were much deadlier than the former. "Vernichtungslager", or "extermination camps" was a post-war allied characterization, I believe.

Re: Solzhenezen, I have not read the article and commentary you mentioned, but will. Other than Mr. Fleming, I know of few novelists who made a good and clean translation into writing history. I have to say that "Cancer Ward" and "One Day in the Life..." are beautifully crafted and frightening, in the mein of Orwell. There is such a dearth of sources on this subject, that one might even peruse the lesser ones.


Josh Greenland - 10/9/2003

I for one am glad that you're still willing to correct gross errors in this discussion. Mr. Thomas may know what he wants to believe, but he isn't the only when you're reaching when you post here. Remember the online truism that for every regular poster, there are many lurkers.


Josh Greenland - 10/9/2003

"The analysis of this mutual animus between eastern Jews and Slavs may have to do with the fact that many of the Polish and Belorussian Jews were originally German, specifically Rhenish in the case of the Yiddish speakers, and may have carried with them some of the anti-slav animus which is strangely a part of German culture, even though so many slavic groups became a part of that culture: the Sorbs, Wende, Preuss, and Balts come to mind."

I don't think so. I understand that there was contact between Jewish people moving up into Eastern Europe and the christians there that was not felicitious, not too many hundreds of years after the Romans dispersed the Jews. I may have read that these early European Jewish groups were aggressive religious proselytizers and that this did not sit well with Eastern Europe's christian rulers, who reacted fiercely against the Jews. This may be why Judaism now has a general negative attitude toward proselytizing. (If I'm wrong about any or all of this, someone feel free to jump in with a correction.)

From that time, a fierce anti-Semitic prejudice developed among Eastern European christians, and Jews have been the victims of their bigotry from then on. Mr. Thomas, your remarks imply some kind of mutual dislike, but I don't see that. This looks like the classic model of a dominant society holding onto irrational prejudices against a subordinate minority. I don't think Jews from Germany have much to do with it.

"Aleksander Solzhenezin has written a book on this precise subject entitled "200 years Together", which has not been published in English, but which I understand is scholarly. It is being opposed by some Jewish groups for its bluntness in assessing blame both ways, but may be worthwhile anyway."

I don't think I'd trust Solzhenitsyn. I remember reading an essay he wrote in Foreign Affairs, I think in 1980, about Czarist Russia. It was crap. He was making things up as he went along. In letters to subsequent issues of Foreign Affairs, experts on Eastern European history wrote letter after letter disagreeing, oh so tactfully, but still disagreeing, with his butchery of history, which he then defended. Judging from the fanciful nature of what he wrote, I'm pretty sure Solzenitsyn is a pathological liar. That can be a good thing when you are a fiction writer (look at Jerzy Kozinski) but I'd have my BS detector on when reading anything "factual" from Solzenitsyn.

"ps: It is good of you to grant the point on the existence of the two types of camps."

Which two camps do you mean?


Josh Greenland - 10/9/2003

"I have a small proposal for you. In the same way that Vatican II revised sections of its teachings to accommodate Jewish sensibilities, why not revise the Talmud by doing the same, including the insults to all other religions, and all racist statements?"

I don't see the need. The Talmud is full of all kinds of things, including contradictory material. I don't think it was ever meant to be literally followed, I don't think it literally followed, and I don't think it would even be possible to literally follow it. From what I gather, the Talmud is something like a blog that went on for centuries, whose authors argued, sometimes bitterly, with one another.

I don't see Talmud-inspired bigotry manifesting itself in Jewish behavior. That the Talmud contains hideous hatefulness, most notably against christians, is a charge that anti-Semites have been making for a while. Because inventors of anti-Semitic doctrine lie habitually, I don't accept this charge as automatically true. Whether there is or isn't any anti-christian content in the Talmud, the charge is part of anti-Semitism's attempt to portray Jews as the aggressive rather than the victim group in the anti-Semites' ongoing kulturkampf.


F.H. Thomas - 10/8/2003


Gentlemen:

(Finkelstein article in Harvard Crimson)

http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=349123




Jonathan Dresner - 10/7/2003

The "Blood Libel" was the absurd accusation that Jews used blood in the baking of matzo, which usually led to either individual Jewish deaths or widespread death among Jewish communities (and the blood libel is alive and well, by the way, in some anti-semitic circles). By extension it refers sometimes to myths of Jewish domination over non-Jewish populations that are seen as detrimental to non-Jews.

That's a very poor metaphor for even Goldhagen's strained argument, which hasn't resulted in any deaths or even injuries to Germans. A more proper metaphor, if you insist on a Jewish metaphor, would be the deicide myth, the lingering blame for something done by someone else a long time ago. But even that had very real consequences both in the short term and over long periods of time.

But wait. Germans did slaughter Jews in large numbers in the recent past. Sure, they had some help, but they orchestrated and organized and profited from it. Libel? Myth? No.

You'd better work on your metaphors, sir.


Jonathan Dresner - 10/7/2003

Mr. Thomas,

I was intemperate because I am incensed, and remain so. Dialogue with you is apparently pointless.

I didn't say the Gospels were confused; but many Christians who read the Gospels have and still get confused about the three Marys. And there were lots of Gospels back then, too, not just the four approved and cleaned up texts.

Luther's anti-semitism was widely published in tracts and pamphlets which Lutheran sects still consider today as the source of their legitimacy and doctrine: not holy?

No, Moses was not a street magician, and I find that turn of argument offensive to say the least. Moses was a true prophet. His miracles were irrelevant to that status, except that as a true prophet his abilities came from God rather than from some magic. What made Moses a true prophet was the fact that he spoke to the people in God's name with God's authority.

And to assume that the Talmud is unchanging is to apply modern Christian literalism to the Jewish tradition. The original text remains intact, but the Oral Law continues to grow and change. I don't know, frankly, what the Orthodox position on Christianity is, but Jews as a group understand Christianity and take it much more seriously than Christians do any other tradition (sometimes including their own).

It was a mistake to return to this discussion. I apologize for the error in judgement, and I will not return unless there are gross errors in fact to be corrected.


F.H. Thomas - 10/7/2003


It is gratifying to read your very well-considered remarks, and to enjoy the tempered tone. You have excellent persuasive skills, which I would be the first to admire.

The analysis of this mutual animus between eastern Jews and Slavs may have to do with the fact that many of the Polish and Belorussian Jews were originally German, specifically Rhenish in the case of the Yiddish speakers, and may have carried with them some of the anti-slav animus which is strangely a part of German culture, even though so many slavic groups became a part of that culture: the Sorbs, Wende, Preuss, and Balts come to mind. (God knows how many Poles and Russians were forcibly "Teutonized").

Aleksander Solzhenezin has written a book on this precise subject entitled "200 years Together", which has not been published in English, but which I understand is scholarly. It is being opposed by some Jewish groups for its bluntness in assessing blame both ways, but may be worthwhile anyway.

For the rest of it, as you know, I blame events of the 20th century, which cascade like Hell's apostles from the apocalypse of WW I.

Thank you for the fine contribution.


ps: It is good of you to grant the point on the existence of the two types of camps.



F.H. Thomas - 10/7/2003


“F. H. Thomas spouts…”

I respectfully suggest that your words will have a better hearing if you do not disparage. That is a technique more appropriate to schoolyards. This is out of character for you and not in keeping with the your customary scholarly dignity.

I do have a few observations on your remarks themselves:

””Confusion of the three Marys in the Gospels, one of whom *was* a prostitute, was not limited to Talmudic sources, but was also common in Christian popular understanding as well. “”

I know of no confusion at all in the gospels, which almost always reference each Mary with her full name. The Talmud, for its part, makes sure that Mary, Mother of Jesus is being discussed by saying that “she consorted with carpenters”, “was of Nazareth”, and “became with child during menstruation”. The Talmud seems to me to be referring to Mary, the mother of Jesus in the most precise terms possible.

”And the prophets specifically warn us against miracle-working as proof of prophetic value (it is the content of the teaching, not the working of miracles, that defines prophecy), so a miracle-worker who taught contrary to Judaism was indeed no better than a street magician. “

Presumably this means that Moses, who performed 9 miracles to my count, the plagues, the parting of the sea, and the commandments, was “indeed no better than a street magician”. I do not believe that there are any other Jews, or for that matter Christians, who would agree with you on that.

””Can you point to a single instance in which Jews acted to oppress Christians based on these Talmudic texts? How many Jews today are aware of these texts? Luther's words had great power over the years, and I've sat in Lutheran churches and heard the echoes of his anti-semitism today. “”

I note that Luther’s wild dreams, including the one in which he dreamed that he “chased away the devil by firing farts like thunderclaps”, or the one which inspired his anti-semitic tract, appear nowhere in any book which any Christian calls holy, but that the anti-Christian and racist tracts we have been discussing appear in Judaism’s holiest book.

I have a small proposal for you. In the same way that Vatican II revised sections of its teachings to accommodate Jewish sensibilities, why not revise the Talmud by doing the same, including the insults to all other religions, and all racist statements? I believe that this would undoubtedly improve mutual understanding, and would nominate you to do the editing. Ancient Christianity has the method for this task down pat: you just declare the offending parts apochriphal.

”Christian bashing? Not even close. “

How about what is happening to Mel Gibson?



F.H.Thomas - 10/7/2003


I regret that you feel you must resort to epithets and mischaracterizations, rather than dealing in evidence and scholarship, as a capable historian should.

As I have stated to you before, your tactics imply that you have no facts to back up your position, which impression I know to be false in your case. I suggest that in future discussions you cite evidence, and analysis, rather than just cat-fighting.

At the start of this thread I expressed a hope that some reconciliation for the awfulness of the twentieth century would come forth, based upon the example of an accurate recitation and deliberation of the facts we know with certainty about this deadly place, Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The discussion went in scholarly form through the role of the work camp, versus the deadlier resettlement camp, starting with a review of the physical and documentary evidence. I have throughout recited only firmly established and (today) generally accepted facts, most of the new information as reported 8 years ago by the New York Times, hardly a Nazi newspaper, and at least partly acknowledged by the very museum which was the subject of this article. (Unless you are a German speaker, I recommend the Times summary over the Archives original.)

(It occurs to me that someone will make himself a bundle by translating the entire collection of these documents-hint.)

Undoubtedly one of the most disturbing facts for some is the death toll, which the newer, primary sources place at between 860,000 (the documents re:Auschwitz) and 1,100,000 (N.Y. Times), the difference accounted for apparently by the inclusion of other facilities in the Times estimate. In both cases the deaths were over 90% due to Typhus and Cholera, and include all inmates. Consistent with these two more accurate figures, the camp museum itself cites a figure of about 1,000,000, (see the above article). The previous estimate, arrived at by the extensive Nuremburg torture of Mr. Hoess, is 4,000,000, Jews only in this case, about six times as high as the newer figures.

That 4,000,000 figure is essential to the endless opprobrium laid upon the Germans generally. For many people, the corrosive and racist proposition that all Germans are beasts is sunk pretty deep. The old figures support that proposition. The new, more credible figures and facts do not. I guess old hatreds die hard, but these are the very hatreds which, like boils, must be lanced to promote healing. We need some healing, Mr. Greenland. There is enough hate around from the 20th century to poison the whole world.

I have argued the positive proposition that this was the most important slave labor camp in the Nazi system, and had better living conditions than such as Sobibor, a resettlement camp, thanks to the intervention of Mr. Speer, at least until the first Cholera pandemic.

As sidelines, I cited much primary information regarding the Wannsee conference, the damning Lange report, the economic development of the Third Reich, the nature of slave labor and its relation to productivity.

These are scholarly matters, and deserve a scholarly response.

I am neither German, not even a tiny amount, nor do I have the slightest love for the Third Reich and its warped world view. If you have not already divined it, I am an extreme libertarian and as such suspicious of all governments, most particularly totalitarian and cruel governments.

As one who has been through and suffered in war, for this country, my sole intention for whatever years I have left is to promote peace and understanding through knowledge. My dearest love is for truth, which by its nature always militates against war. This means the debunking of myths favoring any interest group. I ask that you join with me in that goal.


NYGuy - 10/7/2003

Jonathan,

This is not a nitpick. I was able to get a copy of "The War Against the Jews, 1933-1945", by Lucy S. Dawidowicz. Is this the same as your Davidowicz? I suspect it is. What I have read so far seems to be a well researched and balanced report on the period and gives insight to the reaction of Jewish people during this time as well as the actions of the Nazis.

I must confessed I have been confused by the article, the response to the article and the references to Auschwitz as a slave labor camp and as a killing camp. The article suggests that there is not much evidence of gassing or crematorium at Auschwitz, but we do find it at Birkenau. I guess this is where I am now. Did the people at Auschwitz, as opposed to Birkenau die because of poor nourishment, disease and poor work conditions or were the deaths due mostly to gassing? These are the questions raised in my mind by the article.

The issue has become complicated in my mind because of the slave labor issue, which is also more complicated because as I read about it, it involved prisoners of war and non-Germans.

As with Dawidowicz's book I am not arguing the events did not happen. But as she does, I would like to understand more of the details.

I am not critizing the article, but I think the presentation has raised more questions than it has answered.

Cheers


Jonathan Dresner - 10/7/2003

Mr. Greenland,

He has also clearly read (or read about) Leuchter, and nothing that isn't entirely on his side. And Speer's autobiography! Great balanced source. Just about every other name he's mentioned on the IHR side of the table. Would it kill him to pick up Davidowicz, or even Davies History of Europe?

More to the point, primary sources are great if you want to nitpick, but unless you are prepared to marshall (and cite) great numbers of them, they don't answer a lot of interesting historical questions.

Let's ask ourselves (particularly Mr. F. H. Thomas): what question are we asking? Why does it matter? "Accuracy" is not the answer, though I'm sure it's the word Mr. Thomas would use. There is an argument in the selection of facts: let's admit it and move on.


Jonathan Dresner - 10/7/2003

F. H. Thomas spouts "It seems that Mary was really a hooker, and that Jesus was a flim-flam magician from Egypt. Oy Vey!"

Confusion of the three Marys in the Gospels, one of whom *was* a prostitute, was not limited to Talmudic sources, but was also common in Christian popular understanding as well.

And the prophets specifically warn us against miracle-working as proof of prophetic value (it is the content of the teaching, not the working of miracles, that defines prophecy), so a miracle-worker who taught contrary to Judaism was indeed no better than a street magician.

Can you point to a single instance in which Jews acted to oppress Christians based on these Talmudic texts? How many Jews today are aware of these texts? Luther's words had great power over the years, and I've sat in Lutheran churches and heard the echoes of his anti-semitism today.

Christian bashing? Not even close.


Josh Greenland - 10/7/2003

eom


Josh Greenland - 10/7/2003

"As regards the “stupid is” proposition, although cute and pithy, it does not hang well with the evidence we have."

This is a straw man. Mr. Dresner never said anything about the Germans being stupid, in fact he made a point to the contrary.

"The Germans are Europe’s primary source for great intellects, with more first line composers, for example, than the sum of all of the others, that story repeating when one goes to science, literature, technology, manufacturing, etc., with German Jews participating fully in most of that."

With all due respect, Mr. Thomas, this is hogwash, and is another demonstration of the degree to which you owe your historical knowledge to Nazi propaganda, the inclusion of Jews in your vision of a German uberkultur notwithstanding.

The Germans are what, maybe 1/10th of the population of Europe? Sorry, there are just too many "first line" creators, intellectuals and inventors from the other countries of Europe, names that are very well known to all of us, for this statement to have any credibility at all.

"Since most Jews are also either part or mostly German, one must also be a little circumspect as a Jew, in his broadside criticisms of Germans."

Where do you get THIS from? I very much doubt this is true. Do you have anything vaguely resembling proof for the statement that most Jews are partly or mostly German?

"The evidence we have says it was a manufacturing facility using slave labor, with an appalling death rate, mainly from disease."

"The" evidence? Only from people trying to cover up the holocaust. The real evidence shows that Auschwitz was a place where undesirables, mostly Jews, were to be worked and starved to death. There's a huge amount of real evidence out there, not just from the Nuremberg proceedings, your description of which I don't accept because of the large number of errors in your earlier historical posts.

"Mr. Goldhagen’s book is an example of a “blood libel”, similar to the one leveled against Jews in the middle ages, but much broader in scope."

No, it isn't. Blood libel isn't just any false claim that any group has done something bad. So you can't exclaim, "You Jews do it too!" And your example is unimpressive. Goldhagen's book has been well-discredited and everyone knows it's crap.


Josh Greenland - 10/7/2003

Alright, I'll be a little more precise: Germany has had anti-Semitism in its history, some of it virulent, but the anti-Semitism of the Eastern European Slavs has always been much worse. During Hitler's time, the great majority of Germans were not nearly as anti-Semitic as so many Eastern European Slavs were at that time. I don't think most Germans during Hitler's reign were virulently anti-Semitic, but Nazi Jew-hating propaganda may have helped them to wall themselves off emotionally from the Jews of their country, leaving them to their fate. While in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe, many people were happy to hear that the Jews were being exterminated.

Howard K. Smith in his book Last Train from Berlin talked about how the average German didn't buy into the vicious lies of Der Sturmer, that that publication had a very limited appeal, mostly to the Nazi old guard. Mostly German gentiles were afraid to interact with or help Jews as the Nazis progressively segregated them. There were pockets of virulent anti-Semitism, of course, but it wasn't a general German trait during those years. Until the Nazi years, Germany was considered a safer and less bigotted place for Jews than anywhere in Eastern Europe. I've seen one claim that American Jews during WWI favored Germany and its allies because Czarist Russia was so hated for its ferocious, official anti-Semitism. I think one reason many Jews didn't leave Germany before the holocaust was that many of them were used to thinking of Germany as a fairly civilized place, in direct contrast to Eastern Europe, and couldn't believe anti-Semitism would pick up there so quickly.

I believe that the difference between grassroots German versus Slav attitudes toward Jews was one strong reason for putting the death-camps in Eastern Europe. And no, not all concentration camps were extermination camps.

Note that I'm comparing Germans with Eastern European Slavs, who have historically had the worst problem with anti-Semitism. I'm NOT saying that there was no grass roots anti-Semitism in Germany, or that it wasn't worse than in most other places.


Josh Greenland - 10/7/2003

"Because I believe in primary sources, I will not provide more at this time...."

What a surprise. I'm betting your main sources are the Institute of Historical Review and other Nazi and anti-Semitic sites and publications, including those of holocaust denier Ernst Zundel who you've mentioned in another post.


NYGuy - 10/7/2003

Thanks Josh,

The more I understand this time periods the more complex I find it. This thread has raised some interesting question for me. Thank you for your imput. I do want to get this right. What is so interesting is that I now find people claiming three periods in Auschitz. Hope we can clarify this issue on HNN.

Thanks,

cheers


Josh Greenland - 10/7/2003

"My understanding was that Auschitz the town housed slave labor, but Birkenau had the crematoriums. I am misinterpreting this matter?"

No, you are understanding things correctly. So when anti-Semites claim that Auschwitz was not an extermination camp, they playing a word game. Birkenau "served" Auschwitz (or vice versa).


NYGuy - 10/6/2003

FH,

I see where Mr. Mueller cames from. It was not the point of my post. I was trying to show by the comments in the article and on the others posts there seemed to be a misunderstanding about Auschwitz and the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex. My understanding was that Auschitz the town housed slave labor, but Birkenau had the crematoriums. I am misinterpreting this matter?


F.H. Thomas - 10/6/2003


Thanks for the link:

I had not read this web site, do not know who Mr. Mueller is or was, and frankly cannot relate much of what he says to what I know. His credibility is a cypher.

One must be a little sceptical in that he never mentions the factory from which he returns "with dead comrades in the evening", (!?) yet from numerous aerial photographs we see 33 huge factories in the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex. He would have spent 12 hours per day, most of his waking hours, in one or more of these factories, doing complex tasks, yet he seems never to mention it. He just returns from "work, carrying dead comerads", which is so generic that he does not know what kind of work it is. Possible, but unlikely.

The lack of "gas chambers" at this complex is pretty well established, so his comments about those are obviously mistaken.

But strangest of all, he never mentions disease (if I missed that let me know), when disease had to have been the most feared element of life there. How could he not have been terrified, especially after the winter of 1943-1944?

During Nuremburg, many sincere looking "former inmates" were brought forward who simply told stories which were so laughable that even Vyshinski smirked, and they stopped calling them. Perhaps this "Mueller" is on a similar mission.

I was very interested in the comments about the Kapos. Many accounts on both sides described how former German Communists were the most common Kapos, and particularly brutal. Many of them had participated in the street brawling of the 20's which led to the "Horst Wessel" song. (Wessel was shot by a Communist.)Mueller, may have gotten that part right. Perhaps he was a Kapo.

I was also interested in Mueller's longivity, which spanned almost the entire war at Auschwitz. One wonders how that would be possible. I would like to know how he survived two pandemics.


F.H. Thomas - 10/6/2003

A sobering survey

At Auschwitz gold teeth might buy a bowl of turnip soup; at
Auschwitz a camp orchestra would play cheerful military music, not only in the morning when the prisoners marched out to work, but also at night when, bruised and battered, they struggled back carrying their dead comrades.


NYGuy - 10/6/2003

FH

You have forced me to put down my Da Vinci Code and pursue another mystery, i.e. “how could one claim that Auschwitz was primarily a slave camp, when, I and I think most people associate Auschwitz with the Holocaust.

On the following link we see evidence that Auschwitz was – The Extermination Factory.

http://www.nizkor.org/faqs/auschwitz/auschwitz-faq-07.html

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism,soc.history
Subject: Holocaust Almanac: Auschwitz - The Death Factory
Followup-To: alt.revisionism
Organization: The Nizkor Project, Vancouver Island, CANADA
Keywords: Auschwitz,Zyclon

Archive/File: camps/auschwitz auschwitz.01
Last-modified: 1994/12/26

THE EXTERMINATION FACTORY - AUSCHWITZ

The extermination plant with the most advanced design anywhere in the
world consisted of two large crematoria/gas chambers and two smaller ones.
Crematoria Four and Five were built on the surface of the ground.
Crematoria Two and Three had subteranian gas chambers and reception areas. They were about 102 meters long by 51 meters across.


NYGuy

How can one deny the above report which describes four crematoria that were built at Auschwitz?

Further on the link we are told:

The need for large-scale efficiency, to cope with the astounding number of corpses produced by the gas chambers, eventually led to the design and construction of new crematoria, and daily capacity rose from as low as six hundred forty eight per day ( Müller's 1942 figure) to a high of over ten thousand ( Höss, Gricksch), but, as Feig tells us, the SS eventually had to employ large pyres and pits to dispose of the mounting pile of corpses:

Meanwhile, Speer says in his Auschwitz article:

The museum, itself, seemed like nothing special until we got out into Auschwitz, itself. Auschwitz and Birkenbau were two nearby camps actually.

Mr. Bailey adds:

There was only one very small-reconstructed gas chamber, and almost no information as to where, on the various sites, the actual killing and cremating had occurred.

Indeed, when I went over to Birkenau (the main part of Auschwitz which Speer apparently skipped), a film, with prisoners in the familiar gray pajama-like suits, was being made there on location. Having read Wiesel and others already, I specifically went to Auschwitz because I wanted to see first hand what the Nazis actually did and how they did it, not so that I could "relive the drama and horror" for the umpteenth time.

NYGuy

I went to my copy of William Manchester’s “The Arms of Krupp” and got a somewhat different view of Auschwitz from a business prospective. Auschwitz was a place of skilled slave labor, which was used not only in Krupp’s Auschwitz automatic weapons plant but were sent to his other manufacturing facilities as well. There was a big political game among the Germans on who would get the cheap labor that the talented Auschwitz slaves provided.

But, Manchester also quotes one of Krupp’s employees: “From the factory one could see the three big chimneys of the crematorium.”

FH Thomas on Auschwitz

One gas chamber with the requisite seals, chemical barriers, etc has been found on the present grounds. (NB:Auschwitz). However, it had 3-foot ceilings, was very small, and had a small opening one would have to crawl through, meaning that it could not have been used for people. Apparently it was used to de-louse clothing.

NYGuy

The confusion could well be that references to the Auschwitz camp also consider the Birkenau camp which was not far away and whose high chimney’s could be seen for miles. If we use only the first designation, Auschwitz, then Mr. Thomas is probably correct when he talks about Auschwitz being basically a slave labor camp rather then a killing camp.

On the above link, however, we find this information:

As early as June 13, 1943, all was not well with the new installation. ... Eventually the ovens seemed to fall apart. Crematorium Four failed completely after a short time and Crematoria Five had to be shut down repeatedly. (TWC, V:624) (Between 1945 and 1962 Polish officials found five manuscripts written by Sonderkommando members before their deaths. The published manuscripts and documents relate to the specific process of extermination at Birkenau, and provide detailed descriptions of the crematoria and gas chambers.)

But the well-constructed crematoria fell far behind at a number of camps, and especially at Auschwitz in 1944. In August the total cremation reached a peak one day of 24,000, but still a bottleneck occurred. Camp authorities needed an economic and fast method of corpse disposal, so they again dug six huge pits beside Crematorium Five and reopened old pits in the wood.

NYGuy

This has been an interesting trip into history. Although I had heard many Jews had considered themselves Germans and wanted to remain in Germany I did not fully understand why. If we look at the period 1933-1939 we can see the Jews trying to adapt to a difficult situation. After the invasion in 1939, and expansion East, Hitler puts into effect his plan for the “Final Solution”. It is in this confused wartime period that we see the greatest part of Hitler’s horrors. At that point all undesirables were to be killed, not just the lame, weak, mentally deficient, etc.

It has been a spirited discussion, and I thank everyone for expanding my knowledge.


F.H. Thomas - 10/6/2003



Thank you for your thoughtful comments, particularly the Gruenzpan detail, which I will not challenge. I would like to extend your points, however:

"Whole categories of "enemies" of the German people were marked for extermination by the Einsatzgruppen. "All Jews" were among these categories. They were ennumerated separately from commisars and other Soviet and Communist functionaries who were also marked for slaughter."

An interesting point is the separate "Kommissarbefehl", or "Kommissar Order" which had the "AH" at the bottom, unlike the balance of the killing, which was apparently an SS initiative of Himmler's, and which Hitler did not necessarily approve. I have seen a copy of an evacuation order to one of the "Umsiedlungslager" (deadly "resettlement camps"), which Himmler had reviewed with Hitler, and been specifically instructed "Nicht Liquidierung FB". (No killing-Leader's Order). This apparently refers to an earlier shipment which had been entirely murdered. The instruction was hand-written in the lower left of the page, and is as chilling as they come.

"With all due respect, this is a pretty strange way to describe a gigantic slave-labor gulag where millions of people died. As for Speer saving the lives of workers, this is all fine and good, but let us not forget that these workers had been for the most part kidnapped, jammed into boxcars, and transported against their will to the camp in the first place."

No disagreement on the subject of the inhumanity of forced labor, nor that a death by Typhus was as horrible or more so than by any other means, whether deliberately inflicted or not. If it were me, of course, I would have considered myself fortunate to be under Speer and his Ausnahmen than Himmler and his choice of slow starvation or a fast bullet. Speer can figuratively be considered as a non-fictional Schindler, on a grand scale, although the reason for all of this relative "kindness" was manufacturing efficiency, not necessarily humanity.

On this point, get a copy of the minutes of Wannsee, and Lange's and Eichmann's reports specifically. Eichmann unintentionally describes the horrors of transport when he reacts to an incident in which prisoners with severe diaharrea had become frozen to the seats, and died. Horror compounds horror.

The author of the original article posited an Auschwitz death total of 1 million, as reported by the museum, which is also about the figure reported by the NY Times when the KGB archive was released in 1995. The figure of 860,000, over 90% by disease, appears in the detail of the Auschwitz documents. I believe that 1 million, horrific as it is, will probably be the figure which is remembered. The earlier figure of 4 million was extracted from Hoess at Nuremburg, under the most extreme torture, etc, and is today generally discredited.

Thank you for equating Arbeitslager with the Gulag, probably the best comparison I have heard. If Solzhenezin's account is accurate, however, Speer may have been a "kinder, gentler" jailer than Malenkov et. al. Certainly his death rate was less. It seems that the Soviets were so impressed by the Arbeitslager that they copied the idea.

Grieving and tears is the only valid reaction to all of this, for the memory of all of those who suffered. But I do believe that it must be faced as it was, painful as that is, to do justice to those dead.


F.H. Thomas - 10/6/2003


Thank you for your thoughtful comments, particularly the Gruenzpan detail, which I will not challenge through disagreement. I would like to extend them, however:

"Whole categories of "enemies" of the German people were marked for extermination by the Einsatzgruppen. "All Jews" were among these categories. They were ennumerated separately from commisars and other Soviet and Communist functionaries who were also marked for slaughter."

An interesting point is the separate "Kommissarbefehl", or "Kommissar Order" which had the "AH" at the bottom, unlike the balance of the killing, which was apparently an SS initiative of Himmler's, and which Hitler did not necessarily approve. I have seen a copy of an evacuation order to one of the "Umsiedlungslager" (deadly resettlement camps), which Himmler had reviewed with Hitler, and been specifically instructed "Nicht Liquidierung FB". (No killing-Leader's Order).

"With all due respect, this is a pretty strange way to describe a gigantic slave-labor gulag where millions of people died. As for Speer saving the lives of workers, this is all fine and good, but let us not forget that these workers had been for the most part kidnapped, jammed into boxcars, and transported against their will to the camp in the first place."

No disagreement on the subject of the inhumanity of forced labor, nor that a death by Typhus was as horrible or more so than by any other means, whether deliberately inflicted or not. If it were me, of course, I would have considered myself fortunate to be under Speer and his Ausnahmen that Himmler and slow starvation in a murderous regime.

The author of the original article posited an Auschwitz death total of 1 million, as reported by the museum, which is also almost the figure reported by the NY Times when the KGB archive was released in 1995. The figure of 860,000, over 90% by disease, appears in the detail of the Auschwitz documents. I believe that 1 million, horrific as it is, will indeed probably be the figure which is remembered. The earlier figure of 4 million was extracted from Hoess under the most horrific torture, etc, and is today generally discredited.

Thank you for equating Arbeitslager with the Gulag, probably the best comparison I have heard. If Solzhenezin's account is accurate, however, Speer may have been a more beneficial jailer than Malenkov.



Josh Greenland - 10/6/2003

"I shouldn't be the only person here who doesn't accept or make undeserved allowances for anti-Semitic history!"

And I'm not even if Jonathan does go. My apologies to all of you who don't accept or make undeserved allowances for anti-Semitic history.


Josh Greenland - 10/6/2003

Jonathan, thank you for writing what you did above. You made a number of points that needed to be made. In fact, I was thinking of making some of them after reading Mr. Thomas' most recent exercises in acceptance of anti-Semitic propaganda, but you beat me to it, and were more eloquent than I would have been.

I hope that you won't leave this discussion. I shouldn't be the only person here who doesn't accept or make undeserved allowances for anti-Semitic history!


Jesse Lamovsky - 10/6/2003

"Kristallnacht" was an entirely independent operation against Jewish shopkeepers done by Goebbels and the Roehm's Brown Shirts (SA) against Hitler's direct orders. A Jewish man whose parents were prevented from travelling back into the Reich from Poland took revenge by killing the popular German consul in Paris."

A bit of clarification here...

The killer of the German consul was Herschel Grynszpan, the son of Polish Jews who had emigrated to Germany before World War I. His parents, who had never been naturalized, had been forcibly deported over the Polish frontier in October 1938, and Grynzpan's act was no doubt triggered by this action, as well as his conviction that the world did not care about the plight of Jews in Germany. Grynzpan's victim, Ernst vom Rath, was a functionary in the German Embassy in Paris. Whether Hitler ordered the November Pogrom or not is immaterial, as far as I am concerned. It happened anyway, and nobody in the Nazi heirarchy did anything to prevent it, or stop it once it started. The death of von Rath was a pretext- he was a little known diplomat who was not even a member of the Nazi Party.

"...Mr. Lamovsky points out, those camps under Himmler, such as Sobibor and Treblinka, were almost entirely staffed by Belorussians and Ukranians, who nursed enormous grudges against Soviet Jews, for the slaughters of the 30's, and were, relatively speaking, hell on earth."

I never stated this. I merely acknowledged that there was a superficial difference in purpose between out-and-out extermination camps like Treblinka and Sobibor, and a slave labor complex like Auschwitz (where millions also died, whether they were gassed or not).

"Barbarossa, the drive against Russia to the east. First deliberate culling and killing of Kommissars, presumed to be Jewish, on Hitler's order. As captured Russians, Belorussians, and Ukranians are heavily recruited by the SS, most of whom have a deep grudge against Kommissars, whom they equte with Jews, mass killings begin of non-Kommissar Jews, whole families at a time. This grudge exists to this day in these countries."

Whole categories of "enemies" of the German people were marked for extermination by the Einsatzgruppen. "All Jews" were among these categories. They were ennumerated separately from commisars and other Soviet and Communist functionaries who were also marked for slaughter. One of the goals of the Einsatzgruppen was to murder all the Jews within the zones of conquest in the USSR, whether they were "commisars" or not. Imagined revenge on Stalin's henchmen may have played some part in the crimes committed by Slavic units, but, of course, pecuniary gain or simple sadism probably played a big part as well (and yes, Slavic anti-semitism existed before 1917). It did not matter that the religious people, the children, the elderly, were not communists, either. They were Jews, and as Jews they were targeted for mass murder. The Einatzgrup assault was not aimed simply at Soviet officials. It was aimed at anyone who was not unacceptable in the New Order in Germany's conquered lands in the East. Jews were unacceptable, by June of 1941, the most economical way to get rid of Jews was to murder them.

"The Arbeitslager program, transferred to Speer on Todt's death, becomes a spectacular asset, with Auschwitz its crown jewel as a manufacturing facility, in the process saving the lives probably of millions of workers, and allowing a truly remarkable war production increase."

With all due respect, this is a pretty strange way to describe a gigantic slave-labor gulag where millions of people died. As for Speer saving the lives of workers, this is all fine and good, but let us not forget that these workers had been for the most part kidnapped, jammed into boxcars, and transported against their will to the camp in the first place.


F.H. Thomas - 10/6/2003


Thank you for your impressive commentary:

Agreed that Luther's dreams were prtty atrocious, but let's face it, Baba Kama and Sanhedrin (in the Talmud) were worse.

It seems that Mary was really a hooker, and that Jesus was a flim-flam magician from Egypt. Oy Vey!

Let's hope that hate speech against Christians will be a little less hateful than it has been, and let there be peace on earth...


F.H. Thomas - 10/6/2003


Thank you for your learned commentary:

I cite Thucidides, the greatest of all Historical commentators:
"History is not the product of special pleading, but of an analyis which is a thing of value for all generations".

It seems to me that you are seeking to construct a "thing of value for all generations". Please, for the sake of us all, stay with this line of inquiry.

Thank you, you have well earned today's Thucidides Prize.


F.H. Thomas - 10/6/2003


Thank you for asking, a most reasonable request:

For the 1995 releases from the old KGB, see the summary in the NY Times as an antipasto, then the meat in the national archives. Bring your linguistic skills or a translator.

Caveat: NYT has the Auschwitz dead reported as 1.1 million, the actual documents at about 860,000. Apparently the difference is accounted for by inclusion of other camps (KZ).

For slave labor, see Speer's autobiography, which although self-serving, is possibly still the best overall source.

Because I believe in primary sources, I will not provide more at this time, but encourage you to do so. Particularly, look sceptically at the Nuremburg records, which are an embarassment to all humanity.


F.H. Thomas - 10/6/2003


Thank you for your learned and instructive comments:

I am writing this while watching USA-Germany in women's world cup, so if I seem a little distracted, you will understand.

Please do not deal yourself out. You are too damned important, edler mann, and we need your commentary. I believe that in your heart you know where I am coming from, and for my part, I believe I know the same of you, and trust you. Let's keep it going to whatever rational conclusion we possibly can.



Would it surprize you to know that Felix Mendelsohn-Bartoldhi's Hebrides overture is my favorite classical piece, the ultimate six-note measure, even ahead of Mozart's Eine Klein Nachtmisik, Beethoven's Chorale Symphony, or Schubert's Ave Maria? Believe it, my dear friend.

While I absolutely abhor anecdotal evidence, there are times when it provides a reference which firmer evidence can not. I want to tell you of Abraham W., a Bohemian Jew and a fine physicist. He worked as an acoustician for GE for many years, on jet and roicket engines, and was a very close friend of a very close friend of mine, a German-American physicist. Our space program depended much on these two.

This gentleman was quite voluable as to conditions at Buchenwald, where he spent the war engineering, testing, and constructing the then-breakthrough V-2 rocket engine and its predecessors. He said the conditions were scholarly, respectful, and invigorating. Sure, he was better treated than the assembly line workers, but that in itself says something. As professor Vogler posited, slaves can be very productive when treated well, and respectfully. Look at Werner von Braun after the war.

I wish to assert, based upon information previously cited, that Speer, admittedly for his own and his country's benefit, treated his people relatively well, and went ballistic when the pandemic of winter 1943 ripped through Auschwitz. I believe that that event cost Hoess his job, although the evidence is my hunch.

Regarding Speer's character, you need not disparage him to me. I am not as easily swayed as Churchill, but I do believe that he thought that mercy and convenience may have coincided, and that his policy was the best for Germany. Simple as that.

Finally regarding the slavs and the Jews: please get yourself a bootleg copy (is there any other kind?) of Aleksander Solzhenezin's "200 Years Together", which treats this subject, but because of ADL antagonism, has not been published here. It seems to me that it is not enough to simply pass slavs off as cretins and be done with it.

My heart is now broken. Mia Hamm and the American Walkeure of of women's soccer team have lost, 3-0. Unfortunately, my dear professor, you can do nothing this night to make me feel worse. This is the pits, the very depth of the pits.

I wish you well!


Jonathan Dresner - 10/5/2003

F. H. Thomas argues "As Mr. Lamovsky points out, those camps under Himmler, such as Sobibor and Treblinka, were almost entirely staffed by Belorussians and Ukranians, who nursed enormous grudges against Soviet Jews, for the slaughters of the 30's, and were, relatively speaking, hell on earth."

This is absurd.

Are you arguing that the bulk of the Holocaust was Slavic vengeance justified by the presence of Jews in the Soviet government? (Yes, Jews were overrepresented in the Soviet government. Jews are overrepresented in every government that doesn't exclude them on religious/ethnic grounds because they are generally highly educated and independent-minded.) That the Nazi invasion of Poland and the USSR was some kind of liberation? Are you saying that Nazism was an improvement for everyone except the Jews?

Slavs were virulently anti-Semitic long before Hitler, long before Stalin, long before Lenin or even Marx. Where do you think the word "pogrom" comes from?

By the way, Dresden is only a small part of my heritage: I'm a mix of just about every strain of Ashkenazi Jew possible, including strong representation from the Pale. Most of the villages and towns from which my family escaped in the late 19th century ceased to exist (literally disappearing from maps) under Nazi control.

The argument that Speer's work camps weren't part of the genocidal program is pretty much absurd as well. Speer was no humanist: he was a clever manipulator of the situation to get the most possible work out of his laborers. He worked them to death, routinely and repeatedly. That they died more slowly than at the other camps is a tribute to his ability to extract the most labor from his slaves by treating them as almost human. But he had no problem with using German and Slavic Jews as slave laborers, no problem with slave laborers dying by the hundreds of thousands, no problem with child labor (How do you think children survived the camps? They worked, just as hard as anyone else.) or constantly smoking crematoria on the grounds.

Auschwitz was an economic engine which used Jews for fuel. I'm supposed to think this is an important distinction? It isn't, and I'm going to stop participating in this discussion because it isn't.


cassandra - 10/5/2003

You say: "Also, Germans even under Hitler were never generally capable of the virulent anti-Semitism so common among Poles, Ukrainians and Lithuanians.."
What absolute balderdash, and bald-faced lie. Germany has a long history of anti-semitism, and virulent anti-semitism at that. Read Luther's later works for a sample. As for this subject, the Germans were perfectly happy to locate concentration camps on their own soil.


Bill Bailey - 10/5/2003

After 12, at times lengthy posts, F.H. Thomas, I think it would be appropriate for you to declare your sources. And, have you ever been to Auschwitz yourself ?

Having had some seven comments here myself I will now list my bibliography:

- Michael Marrus, "The Holocaust in History"
- Christopher Browning, "Ordinary Men"
- older works on Nazism by Haffner, Mommsen, Sauer, Turner, Taylor, Kershaw, and Sheridan
- visit to Auschwitz and the Holocaust Museum in Washington


NYGuy - 10/5/2003

FH.

"The 20th century is a horror which, for all of its pain, must be finally reconciled."

I think your comments, and those of others on this board, are going a long way toward that end. Thank you.


I must confess although I lived through most of that period and thought I had some knowledge of it, these posts and the little reading I did after your posts, has shown me so many areas where I lacked knowledge. I am in gratitute to you and others on this board for my new education.

I did get Black's book out and although I have not read it through it did scare me. Not because of what he said, but because someone can write a long detailed book that adds more confusion than enlightenment and results in a misinterpretation of this complex, changing period. I am reading other books but in the back of my mind is the question, "can I really trust what I am reading." The scope of this period is enormous.

One last item I came across, ie the emigration of Jews from Germany. What was so surprising to me is that it did not go upu in a straight line. Instead it was at times cyclical, rising and falling. In my mind it says this might have occured because the terror of the Nazis ebbed and flowed. If that is true it then shows how complicated this entire area is.

Again thank you and all on this site.




F.H. Thomas - 10/5/2003


The more detail one takes in, the more tangled it often becomes, in dealing with this awful and murderous war.

A few subject areas, such as Auschwitz, are now better defined, but as you can see from the learned comments in this string, many interpretations result when the source data are poor.

For example, Mr. Dresner asks why could there not have been at Auschwitz both a slave labor facility and a killing facility. We do know by anecdotal and written evidence that there was a division into "Arbeitsfaeig" (capable of work) and those who were not, but what happened then? While orthodox theories based upon flawed Nuremburg evidence have those incapable of work, such as young children, being immediately killed, it is also true that many of these children survived the war and are alive today. The lack of evidence of any gassing facilities at Auschwitz also suggests that they met some other fate than gassing, but we do not know exactly what it was.

It is useful to divide the "KZ" (concentration camps) into those under Himmler's control and those under Speer's control for manufacturing purposes. Auschwitz, Dachau and Buchenwald (where V-2 rocket engines were assembled) were under Speer, and benefitted from his famous "exceptions" which made them much easier.

As Mr. Lamovsky points out, those camps under Himmler, such as Sobibor and Treblinka, were almost entirely staffed by Belorussians and Ukranians, who nursed enormous grudges against Soviet Jews, for the slaughters of the 30's, and were, relatively speaking, hell on earth.

In terms of chronology, I find a difficulty in assigning some dates because the Third Reich was full of petty divisions and independent operations. For example "Kristallnacht" was an entirely independent operation against Jewish shopkeepers done by Goebbels and the Roehm's Brown Shirts (SA) against Hitler's direct orders. A Jewish man whose parents were prevented from travelling back into the Reich from Poland took revenge by killing the popular German consul in Paris. Goebbels cranked up the propaganda response to a fever, to assure support, and the Brownshirts did the rest. Hitler was furious, because it was a PR disaster in which the murdered consul, the fine economic growth, abd the Olympics were forgotten.

Nonetheless, we can say:

1921-25 Hitler hired as government spy on various splinter groups, including the German Worker's Party. Becomes a convinced anti-Semite, and joins the party, merging it with National Socialists.

1925-30. Although Hitler is an exceptional public speaker, the party gains few votes, until the great depression. Organization is strengthened.

1932. NSDAP party earns 33% of vote, a plurality. A dying Hindenburg asks Hitler to form a government.

1932-1936. Hitler's government impressively and comprehensively expands the economy, to an 11% growth rate, best in the world, rearms secretly, occupies the Rhineland, builds Autobahns, wins 1936 election overwhelmingly. Hitler basks in glory at 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

1938. Kristallnacht.

1940. Poland taken. Jews forcibly re-located in Ghettos. Disease is the grim reaper.

1941. Barbarossa, the drive against Russia to the east. First deliberate culling and killing of Kommissars, presumed to be Jewish, on Hitler's order. As captured Russians, Belorussians, and Ukranians are heavily recruited by the SS, most of whom have a deep grudge against Kommissars, whom they equte with Jews, mass killings begin of non-Kommissar Jews, whole families at a time. This grudge exists to this day in these countries.

1942, February. Conference held at Wannsee (residential lake area in Berlin), at the home of a former Jewish banker, to coordinate the "Endloesung", or final solution. A gifted stenographer leaves us a complete verbatim record. All involved branches of government attend. Heydrich chairs. Dr Lange provides a written report on the success of Einsatzgrueppen in the East, complete with grotesque little coffins on a map to indicate the number of Jews killed. Immediately the conflict between the needs of manufacturing (then under Fritz Todt) and those of Himmler for expulsion, becomes clear. Todt's representative must have the skilled labor which these evacuees represent. A compromise results, with most KZ as "arbeitslager", or workcamps, with manufacturing to be relocated there.

1942-45. The Arbeitslager program, transferred to Speer on Todt's death, becomes a spectacular asset, with Auschwitz its crown jewel as a manufacturing facility, in the process saving the lives probably of millions of workers, and allowing a truly remarkable war production increase. The Polish Ghettos are evacuated to Auschwitz while German Jews are evacuated to Buchenwald and Dachau, which are organized similarly. New camps of the other kind, called relocation camps, are built, under Himmler, with murderous but more poorly documented results.

1943-45. The years of the grim reaper. Lice spread Cholera (like diarrhea times 10) and Typhus (death by fever), at the same time, in two pandemics, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths in the Arbeitslager camps. Ann Frank died as a manufacturing worker during this period of Typhus. These diseases cause a major but temporary drop in war production.

1945. US British and Russian troops liberate the camps, and see the ravages of a recently endured wave of Cholera: extreme emaciation, sunken eyes, passivity, much death.


At times I tell myself that I cannot look on this terrible record any longer, but somehow make myself do it. The 20th century is a horror which, for all of its pain, must be finally reconciled. I believe it will be fresh minds such as yours that will finally bring all the strings together, and wish you well, Mr. N.Y.Guy.


NYGuy - 10/5/2003

FH,

Thank you and others for the input on this topic. It has been very instructive for me. One of the problems I had was with the various designations used during this period and I am asking for your comments on the conclusions I am coming to.

1. The "final solution" extended over many years and moved in steps. Initially it was primarily harassment, but did including killings of the Jews in Germany and forced many to commit suicide. .

2. Later it moved to urging Jews to "get out of town." This stage also included the concept of slave labor, which appears to be the main purpose of these camps in the beginning, and it is acknowledged that atrocities were committed at these camps.

This period seems to be from about 1933 to 1939.

As I understand it Ghettos came out of Germany's invasion of Poland, which occurred in 1939.

4. As best I can determine, the actual plan to carry out systematic killing of people in extermination camps developed about 1939.

Any comments you, or others, can make on this subject would be greatly appreciated. One of my interests in the time line on the treatment of Jews in Germany is the suggestion that the extermination camps were ongoing from 1933 to 1939 and therefore everyone knew it. If they did not begin until 1939 then we have to look at those who dealt with the Germans in the 1933-1939 period in a more careful way. As I mentioned earlier my concern in this matter is that many patriotic Americans, Democrats, Republicans and possibly others, are being smeared as supporting Hitler in building his Killing machine, when their activities were just part of normal business transactions. That is why I found you comment on Churchill so interesting. He eventually became one of the few who realized the Nazi threat, but I believe that was in 1940.


F.H. Thomas - 10/4/2003



Thank you for your commentary, which always adds to the discourse, and is a source of much instruction and pleasure for me. If I may extend your comments:


1. I take your point on Treblika and Sobibor, and the various Ghettos, but wish there were better records of what went on there. The destruction of tens of thousands of Jews by the (largely slavic and vengeful) SS Einsatzgrueppen during the initial advance is very well documented by contrast. We have Dr. Lange's full report to Heydrich, delivered at Wannsee, with its gruesome map decorated with tiny coffins-conclusive evidence of exactly what was being done. If you have any good sources on the other camps, please refer.

It seems clear that the mantle of Albert Speer, which relatively protected the slave workers at Auschwitz, did not extend to these camps because there was little or no manufacturing going on there. That is enough to make you ponder fate.


2. Fred Leuchter was a widely acknowledged expert on the use of hydrocyanic acid in executions, whose clients included all of the states which practiced execution by this method, and several foreign countries. While his odd profession is probably not the way any of us here would choose to earn our daily bread, his expertise must be acknowledged. The Leuchter analysis was fairly conclusive as regards there having been no gassing of human beings at any of the Auschwitz sites which have been mentioned by those who assert that gassing took place there.*


3. Two additional such investigations took place thereafter, to my knowledge, involving the distinguished French Communist Roger Garaudy, former Speaker of the French Assembly, who also asserted that Auschwitz was a forced labor camp, and used French consultants to buttress his claim. They agreed with Leuchter's conclusion. I believe M. Garaudy, as a Communist, actually was interned at Auschwitz, and so could speak with authority.


4. Ernst Zuendel, a German-Canadian who has been subjected to a barrage of unconstitutional harassment on a straight issue of free speech, must command some sympathy from us, whether we agree with his thesis or not. He is, I believe imprisoned in solitary confinement and incommunicado in Canada, at the insistence of the ADL, but under no legal authority whatsoever.

If Zuendel is correct that Auschwitz was a slave labor camp rather than a "Vernichtungslager", as I believe that you and I might agree, then his outrage as a German at what he believes to be a blood libel directed against Germans is not unreasonable.

As Prof Norm Finkelstein has points out in "The Holocaust Industry", the unconscionable use of the holocaust by certain plutocrats to demand endless reparations, few of which actually find their way to the real victims, is an ongoing offense against mankind, to which a realistic view of Auschwitz is particularly and financially threatening.

(God, I wish this were a prettier picture.)


* By the way, "Prussian Blue" sticks to masonry walls like iron, and is much harder than the masonry itself. One sees this material, ground to a powder and mixed with clay, in the blue tiles one frequently encounters in kitchens. (There goes that engineering undergrad degree of mine, rearing its ugly head.)


Many thanks again for your comments.


F.H. Thomas - 10/4/2003


Thank you for your learned comments. A brief rejoinder, if I may:

Please refer to my separate comment on the general efficacy of slave labor. The exact analysis of Auschwitz must wait until further translation of the (Russian captured) German documents.

The overall figures for production under Speer are pretty clear, as reported monthly from 1942 to the end of the war. Over that period, the increase was over 100%. Auschwitz was handled no differently from any other site, except for its enormous size. The full "Ausnahmen" were in effect, and the plant and equipment were brand new. It was probably among the most efficient sites.

More crucial than any other Auschwitz manufacturing activity was the huge IG Farben plant, which converted coal into gasoline and diesel oil. Without that fuel, the Eastern army would die, and quickly, as indeed happened in February of 1945.

Thank you again.



F.H. Thomas - 10/4/2003


Thank you for noticing this important discrepancy, and for your thoughtful commentary.

The only hard evidence we have is the actual German records of deaths at Auschwitz-Birkenau which the Russians released in 1995. These cite a figure of 860,000, close to what the author cites, about 90% of which was from Cholera and Typhus pandemics.

"Ein Laus, dein Leben", indeed.


F.H. Thomas - 10/4/2003


Slave labor is often assumed to be inefficient and wasteful, as several thoughtful gentlemen have opined on this string. Indeed, most generally it is, but in this case one must look closely to find the truth.

The brilliant cliometrician, Prof Vogler of the University of Chicago, got his well-deserved Nobel Prize for pointing out with certainty that slaves are best managed with consideration, good treatment, and kindness. His example is the US Negro slave, who with a carefully balanced diet, good housing, respect for religion, family, and marriage, management and supervision by slaves themselves, etc. set the worldwide standard for agricultural productivity in the US Antebellum South. They were 1.8 times as productive, per capita, as farmers in the North.

So it was for the ubiquitous slave laborer in Germany. One must remember that industrial production was from 1942 under the brilliant Dr Albert Speer, who proceeded like the architect he was trained to be.

When he took over this job in 1942, on the death of Fritz Todt, Germany was not even on a wartime footing in the economy, production was dropping, and factories were being bombed to smithereens by the allies. Few slave (or POW) workers were then used in German factories, and labor shortages were endemic.

Speer first went directly to Hitler to gain approval for his famous "Ausnahmen", or exceptions, to the racial and penal laws. These exceptions provided for better food, better living conditions, health care, inclusion of Jews and Gypsies in the pool of protected workers, and supervision by the prisoners themselves, after a vetting process. Himmler opposed Speer in this matter, but Hitler was persuaded by the man he respected perhaps above all others. These measures had remarkable effects.

Production increased by 30% by the end of 1942, although virtually all production jobs were given to slave laborers, and was 100% higher in 1944, despite the most horrible bombing in history, on factories, worker's homes, transportation, etc.

The effects were so remarkable and so impressive to Churchill, in particular, that, while Speer was sentenced to 20 years at Nuremburg, he avoided any stricter penalty. Many of the surviving workers still revere him for saving their lives. To be working for Speer was to live (excepting the effects of disease). The beneficiaries included many Jews and Gypsies.

Auschwitz was one of the slave labor production facilities under Speer's management. So was Peenemunde, the V-2 production and test facility, the Laberhorn underground factory where Messerschmidt Jet engines were made, and several R&D facilities. These were very skilled labor requirements, all handled about as well as they could be handled by free labor, and perhaps better.

In the tangled history of this awful and murderous conflict, it seems that, the more one studies, the fewer clear answers emerge. The sub-issue of slave labor is one of the more interesting tangles.


F.H. Thomas - 10/4/2003


This continues my previous comments regarding German economic "superstars". Saving the greatest genius for last, we now come to Wirtschaftminister Dr Prof Hjalmar Schacht, probably the greatest economic mind of the 20th century, but not a Nazi.

Schacht, who had both Harvard (I believe) and Goettingen on his resume, joined the Weimar government in 1923, and was so terrific that every following government, including the minority Nazi government of 1932, hired him on. He was Germany's "go to" guy in economics and finance.

His greatest innovation was the "RentMark", or "retired mark", the first currency backed only by the "good faith and credit" of the government, but not by gold or silver. Roosevelt and Morgenthau copied Schacht, without giving him credit, when they cut loose the dollar from gold, as a financing scheme for the new deal.

Without the genius Schacht, Germany would have defaulted on Reparations in 1923, and Hitler would never have been able to stimulate the economy so effectively.

After the war, despite the pleas for clemency from many international bankers, including many Jewish bankers who admired his surpassing genius, Schacht was sentenced at Nuremburg to 6 years in Spandau. His crime? Making it all possible.


NYGuy - 10/4/2003

F.H.

Thank you for your response. I think you have already posted valuable information with your statement that:

"and with the full support of the Deutsche Bank, many of whose board members were still Jewish,..."

I will have to get a better timeline on the "final solution", when did it start, when did it peak, when did it end. If you can help I would appreciate it but I will now try to get the answer from the internet or my library.

Thank you again for your help.


Bill Bailey - 10/4/2003


The greatest concentration of European Jews in the early twentieth century lived in what had been the "Pale of Settlement" under the Russian Czar, which includes considerable chunks of what became Poland after World War I. The borders drawn up after that conflict are the reason why "Auschwitz is in Poland".

If even some SS units were uncomfortable machine-gunning thousands of men, women, and children in cold blood, and if the Nazis' "final solution", implemented extensively following the Wannsee meeting, involved mass killing and presumably even Mr. Thomas accepts that it did) then Auschwitz, conveniently served by major rail lines, was an efficient location for sanitized industrial genocide.


F.H. Thomas - 10/3/2003


Thank you for a thoughtful and learned commentary.

The German economy, in 1936, thanks to a very precise financial focus provided by Mr. Funk, and enormous construction program operated by Mr. Fritz Todt, and with the full support of the Deutsche Bank, many of whose board members were still Jewish, was indeed doing relatively well.

Mr. Speer, who took matters to new heights, through his revolutionary concept of "component circles", to coordinate production, did not come to power until the death of Todt in a plane crash in 1942. As of that date, the economy was not even on a war footing. Before he became manufacturing czar, he was Hitler's brilliant architect.

This subject needs more treatment, but unfortunately business calls. I will see if we cannot pick it up and finish it later.

Thank you again for your interest.


F.H. Thomas - 10/3/2003


Thank you for a very interesting, and well-reasoned commentary.

Quite true that Eastern Europeans had a great hatred for their Soviet masters, the police arm of which they believed was a synonym for "Jew", however strictly accurate that assumption may have been.

I had the extreme good fortune errlier this year, to interview a group of former German soldiers who had experienced it all, from the kickoff of "Unternehmen Barbarossa" right through to surviving Soviet prison camp.

These were Wehrmacht men, who had no time for what they saw as street thugs, i.e. the S.S. They all, every one, stated that, when the Kommissarbefehl was put into effect, the Russian and other slav prisoners would point the hapless individual out by saying "da ist der Jued". That was his death sentence.

In the initial phases of Barbarossa, the Einsatzgrueppen engaged in what can only be described as an undisguised killing spree. All of the records show it, and at Wannsee, in February 1942, the totals were reported to Heydrich by Dr. Lange, a former professor (of history!!). However, the amount and ferocity of killing could not be accounted for without the recruiting of eastern Europeans with a grudge, who quickly became the majority of these units.

That does not of course prove that Auschwitz was in Poland for that reason. I still feel it was a slave labor camp, but nonetheless appreciate your comments very much.

Thanks again.


Earl Tilton - 10/3/2003

A German executive I once heard made a big distinction, in business, between "doing things right" and "doing the right things". I think if one examines German history closely, especially the economic history of the Third Reich, many more examples of the former than the latter appear. Rietschl has shown how the economic success of the Nazis in the 1930s has been exaggerated. Most of the growth then was, I suspect, due to war-related buildups, such as the Autobahns. America's economy boomed too once the war effort there got going in big way after Pearl Harbor.

The Nazis did many wrong things, like Auschwitz, "right" that is, they used efficient means to pursue inefficient ends. I wonder whether Mr. Thomas has any good proof of Auschwitz being a significant source of wartime production that helped the Nazi war effort. They weren't drilling oil, smelting steel or building fighter bombers there, to my knowledge. If anyone has reliable input/output or cost/yield estimates I'd like to see them.

Of course Goldhagen went way off the deep end, but it seems quite valid to characterize the Nazi elite and the SS as "willing executioners", and that, not war production, is what Auschwitz was mainly about.


NYGuy - 10/3/2003

Mr. Thomas,

Thank you for your insights. I would appreciate further help based upon your comments about German’s business operations. This is not meant to be confrontational, and I guess I could look up the economic picture of the time, but it seems you are well aware of it.

As I read your comments, Germany was doing very well economically, better then Britain and the U. S. and they were recognized worldwide for their outstanding management skills. I would also think that because they had a stronger economy than other countries they had a good export/import business with the rest of the world. And since they had established a strong banking network in the late 1800’s they were probably dealing with just about all the bankers in the world.

You say:

"Funk, Todt and later Speer (especially:see Churchill's comments) were acknowledged worldwide in the press of the time for their artful management of the economy, better than it had ever been done."

NYGuy

It would appear that if Hitler was that efficient with his economy he and the Germans would be buying and using sophisticated technology such as IBM's punch cards, which had been used for over 50 years in Census counting applications. And I am sure there were key products that Germany did not product at home and therefore had to import from others.

I set this situation up this way since many do not have an understanding of the period when Hitler was building his “killing machines” and it is easy to assume that anyone dealing with Hitler and Germany in the 1930’s fully understood his intent and were collaborating with him. I gather you are saying that even Churchill acknowledges the German’s economic and business prowess, which is interesting, since I believe it was not until about 1940 that Churchill started to be one of the few who was warning about Hitler’s evil. Chamberlain, of course, thought he could deal with a normal person such as Hitler.

Meanwhile there are those who claim that if anyone dealt with Germany between 1927 and 1939 they were well aware of Hitler’s motives and plans. But, if everyone was dealing with Hitler, doesn’t this suggest that there were normal trade relations between Hitler and the rest the world?

I believe there was normal business trade going on between Germany and the rest of the world and this post 1945 hindsight has now been used to tarnish one’s enemies and say they were dealing with the enemy. It is, however, a claim that tarnishes both Democrats and Republicans.

Any comment would be appreciated.




F.H. Thomas - 10/3/2003


Thank you for your learned comments which always add to the discourse. A short rejoinder, if I may:

In 1936, German economic growth was 11%, British was 6%, and the US was essentially flat. Only the US of major countries, was still in depression. The reason was that FDR would rather make Socialist experiments rather than cut taxes and regulation, as the others did.

Funk, Todt and later Speer (especially:see Churchill's comments) were acknowledged worldwide in the press of the time for their artful management of the economy, better than it had ever been done. Speer was much involved in employment of slave workers, for which, having confessed, he served 20 years detention at Spandau. Auschwitz as a production facility was under Speer's coordination.

I take your point on Karl Marx, but I do not consider him an economist so much as a moral philosopher who took a tragic turn, eventually leaving so many millions dead. The shopkeepers he despised as bourgeois knew more economics than he.


F.H.Thomas - 10/3/2003


Thank you for your learned comments. If I may, I will extend them:

I understand that this subject may be a painful one for you, and pain is not something I wish to cause you, or anyone else for that matter. My disputations with you are a great source of pleasure, and instruction, for me, but I would not dispute with you now, on this subject, unless I thought the end was important.

My guiding principles for historical analysis are use of reliable evidence and primary sources. On this subject, we have had very little of that kind of evidence until the Russians released the German and Soviet files on this subject, in 1995. With that, we know death rates, disease statistics, use of buildings, orders, procedures, inspections, commercial aspects, communications, everything.

The Nuremburg trials, in which much myth and misinformation was inserted into the record, were the most corrupt "legal" process in which any American has ever participated. There were no rules of evidence. Whatever was asserted as “common knowledge” by any ally was accepted, as if it were proven. Thus you had comrade Vyshensky, who was personally involved in the Katyn Forest massacre, asserting that Germans had done it, hugely embarrassing the Americans, who believed the International Red Cross report. The preposterous and outrageous were simply allowed, and generally not challenged. The entire procedure was designed after Soviet show trials, at Stalin’s insistence, over the arguments of a dying Roosevelt at Yalta. (The original Soviet proposal at Yalta had been to simply shoot 50,000 Germans.)

At Nuremburg, the testimonial evidence about Auschwitz mainly came from the Rudolf Hoess, Commandant of Auschwitz from ‘42 to ‘43, who was tortured for 3 weeks, by British intelligence, until almost dead. He would not break until his young family was threatened before his eyes. He testified under oath that he had never read the confession he signed.

That is a rather poor way to get to the truth, don’t you agree?

Some testimony was heard from “camp survivors”, but it was so fantastic and contradictory, that it must be considered unreliable. One “survivor” stated that gassing was done in a wooden barn, which surely would have been suicidal to the gassers and all in the vicinity as well, while another stated that the dead at Birkenau were buried in a pit 6 or 7 meters deep, and burned, an obvious impossibility given that the water table in that marshy area was only 1 meter below the surface, etc. These “survivors” were mainly supplied by the Soviets, and were clearly not in a mood to offend them.

Among the canards introduced at Nuremburg was the characterization of hair shaving for lice control as “harvesting” of the hair, for use in mattresses, although no evidence of such mattresses was presented. The soap, skin, and lampshades canard was developed earlier by British Intelligence, and introduced without objection, based partly upon an inept translation of the letters "RJF", on a bar of soap. (RJF means “Government Soap Factory”, not “Pure Jewish Fat”, as was laughably alleged, clearly by someone with more imagination than language skills.)

For the Soviets, the rationale for this was clear: they needed to focus guilt onto the Germans to provide cover up for the millions they had massacred themselves. Their propaganda echoed this theme for years.

As regards the “stupid is” proposition, although cute and pithy, it does not hang well with the evidence we have. The Germans are Europe’s primary source for great intellects, with more first line composers, for example, than the sum of all of the others, that story repeating when one goes to science, literature, technology, manufacturing, etc., with German Jews participating fully in most of that. It truly is a stretch to imply that they are stupid, notwithstanding what the Hollywood bozons routinely say. Since most Jews are also either part or mostly German, one must also be a little circumspect as a Jew, in his broadside criticisms of Germans. It may hit close to home. (By the way, I would appreciate any references you can provide which deal with the earliest Jewish immigration into Europe).

So, what about Auschwitz? The evidence we have says it was a manufacturing facility using slave labor, with an appalling death rate, mainly from disease. There may well have been political or convenience killings there, but surely none which would have affected production, which was clearly all-important. If there were killings, they were not done by gassing, since a suitable facility did not exist. The evidence makes that clear. But, being a slave laborer eating 1800 calories per day, working 12 hours per day, 7 days per week, separated from family and friends, always in fear of deadly disease, etc. is horrific enough for me, to constitute a war crime anyway, and good reason to grieve mightily.

But, what I am saying is that Hollywood’s version is just that, from the perspective of the careful historian.

Pain is pain for everyone, be he German or German Jew, probably such as yourself. Your name means “of Dresden”, I believe, a place name, which implies that much of your family cultural development probably took place within that highpoint German culture, the city called the Venice of the North. That city, of course, with its beautiful buildings and fabulous baroque art, was completely and deliberately destroyed in April 1945, with the loss of about 70,000 dead, (more than Hiroshima) after the war was for all intents over. The sadness of that war just goes on and on.

A certain Mr. Goldhagen recently wrote a book, “Hitler’s Willing Executioners”, which purported to show that Germans had a predisposition to hurting and killing Jews. Mr Goldhagen assumed that no one would challenge him, because he was bashing Germans, after all, even though every single reference to source documents was either falsified or used in the opposite sense as the document. Ruth Bettina Birn, of the Canadian department of Justice (my idea of a terrific researcher), together with Prof Norm Finkelstein (my idea of a truly ethical scholar) together demolished Mr. Goldhagen’s thesis, in their book, “A Nation on Trial”, by line by line refutations of his false citations. Both are, of course, Jews.

Mr. Goldhagen’s book is an example of a “blood libel”, similar to the one leveled against Jews in the middle ages, but much broader in scope. Like those, it hurts the victim over and over. If we are to ever reach consensus, and perhaps the end of blood libeling generally, we must eschew the inevitable myths, and stick with what we can prove by the evidence.

I again thank you for both the learning and the heartfelt emotion, which you included in your comments.




Edward M. Bennett - 10/2/2003

iUniverse has just published "Facing Auschwitz: A Christian Imperative" by Arlen Fowler which any one who wants to deal with the ethical context of the message of Auschwitz ought to read. It is powerful and compelling.


NYGuy - 10/2/2003

The information presented are excepts from the websites whose reference I give. It is not the complete article. I did this to save space so if anyone is interested in the topic, please read the entire article.


NYGuy - 10/2/2003

Jonathan,

As I mentioned in my earlier post I was not looking to be argumentative with you, but my own recollections of the development of the computer was that it occurred after the war.

It is true that IBM had punch card machines, which were really high speed calculating machines. To add some additional background on this issue I have collected the following information from a search of the internet which may give additional insight into this controversy.

Cheers

New Section

It has long been known that IBM's punch-card machines — predecessors to the modern computer — were used by the Nazis. Among the most powerful calculating devices of the era, they were used to tally the 1933 and 1939 German censuses.

Those tallies allowed the German government to identify Jewish segments of the population, says Steven Luckert, a curator at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, where an IBM punch-card machine is on display. It was common for American firms to do business in Germany in the late 1930s, Luckert adds.

Black says that IBM built and maintained customized systems for the Nazis that were used to keep track of prisoners in extermination camps such as Auschwitz. The Nazi government eventually took control of IBM's German subsidiary, Dehomag, during the war.

Franciszek Piper, Poland's leading Holocaust historian, said Monday that there was no evidence to show that IBM's machines were used at Auschwitz, although he says they were used in other camps.

Lawyers from Cohen Milstein Hausfeld & Toll acknowledged Monday that they do not currently have the documentation to prove that U.S. IBM employees knew their machines were used to help exterminate Holocaust victims. That's why the lawsuit asks IBM to open its archives, they said.

http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2001-02-12-ibm-nazis.htm

New Section:

PRAGUE, Feb. 4, 2003. -- A Swiss court has cleared the way for hearings in a $12 billion lawsuit against the computer giant I.B.M. by a group of Gypsy organizations, which are arguing that the company helped the Nazis automate the Holocaust.

Brian Doyle, a spokesman for I.B.M. in New York, said the company believed the case was "without merit." A previous lawsuit by Jewish Holocaust survivors against I.B.M. was dropped when the plaintiffs' lawyer said he feared the suit would block a settlement with Germany and Switzerland on other Holocaust compensation.

With these machines, the Nazis went much more quickly and killed far more people," said Pastor Bittel, "and I.B.M. designed the material for the Nazis and it knew full well it was aiding the Holocaust."

Reviewing Mr. Black's book in The New York Times, Gabriel Schoenfeld said Mr. Black was "struggling to force his evidence into a box in which it does not fit," although he added that the book showed there was "room for a serious study of I.B.M.'s complicated and by no means innocent relationship with Nazi Germany."

http://isurvived.org/InTheNews/IBM-Holocaust_Gypsies.html

New Section:

Thursday 12 June 2003

Gypsy group to appeal against IBM case decision

A long-running lawsuit brought against IBM by a group representing Gypsy victims of the Holocaust has been dismissed, though the Swiss court which threw out the case may not have the last word on it if a planned appeal goes through.

At the end of last month, the court dismissed the $12bn lawsuit against IBM, arguing a lack of evidence for Geneva as a place of jurisdiction, according to the Gypsy International Recognition Compensation Action (GIRCA) group, which launched the legal action in February 2002.

. http://www.computerweekly.com/Article122535.htm

NYGuy

I think their has to be a balance between Luckert's statement"

"It was common for American firms to do business in Germany in the late 1930s, Luckert adds."

(NB:It was not only the American's but just about every country in the world was doing business with Germany.)

and the statement in the NYTimes:

"the book showed there was "room for a serious study of I.B.M.'s complicated and by no means innocent relationship with Nazi Germany."

NB: I would just prefer an unbiased, objective study of I.B.M.'s complicate relationship with Nazi Germany. Isn't that what history scholarship is about?



Josh Greenland - 10/2/2003

Hmmm, I noticed that the original article says 1 million, not 5 million, were killed at Auschwitz. The 5 million figure is the one I remember. If I'm wrong and the article's right, Auschwitz would still have been responsible for 15-20% of the Jews killed by Nazi Germany.


Josh Greenland - 10/2/2003

"and I doubt very much whether forced labor at concentration camps such as Auschwitz made more than a marginal contribution to economic production at best. Indeed, the camps were probably an overall net cost, economically speaking."

It would probably have to have had some significant effect on the German economy and war effort due just to its huge size. Auschwitz is where the bulk of the Jews were murdered, some estimating 5 of the 6 million. The death camp (Birkenau?) operated alongside a correspondingly huge industrial complex.

And somebody was making big money off Jewish slave labor. The facility was run by and for the profit of the I.G. Farben chemical cartel. (It was broken up after the war. Three of its components were GAF, Agfa and Bayer.) Farben worked closely with the SS which provided and controlled the slave labor for Farben's Auschwitz facility. If the slave labor was inefficient, it wouldn't be the first time government bled taxpayer money so a well-connected corporation could make serious bank.


Josh Greenland - 10/2/2003

"But to do something as screechingly stupid as wasting precious fuel, urgently needed by their soldiers, to putatively haul a lot of people 1000 miles just to take em off the train and gas them, when an available no-cost alternative existed?

"That dog don't hunt, sir."

Actually it does. The Nazis needed at least the acquiescence of the German people to continue their wars and genocide, whereas Eastern Europe was occupied territory and for the most part it really didn't matter what its residents thought. Also, Germans even under Hitler were never generally capable of the virulent anti-Semitism so common among Poles, Ukrainians and Lithuanians. The anti-Jewish genocide was at most a horrifying rumor to most Germans, but many gentile Poles, Ukrainians and Lithuanians knew about the genocide and were quite happy about it, were happy to work at the camps and give their families nice things they took from their victims, and some citizens of these nationalities even took it upon themselves to murder Jews who managed to escape the camps. The Nazis made sure not to perform their mass murders in Germany where they would have been a political liability but instead did them among people who were much more sympathetic to the Nazi policy of anti-Semitic extermination.


NYGuy - 10/2/2003

Jonathan,

I know there have been books and articles blaming Americans and American companies for collaborating with and building the German military machine. But as with the comments on Auschwitz, what are the facts?

We know there have been false allegations that Roosevelt’s rich friend Harriman helped Hitler build his killing machine and made large profits, and I remember a book on the collaboration of ITT with the Germans. So a single book saying IBM provided computing machines to the Germans to keep their trains running on time does not seem to carry the day.

I think the question is “what are computers?” I know that scientists have worked for centuries on trying to create faster calculators. But according to the following articles actual computing machines that could carry out the task of scheduling trains did not come about until after WWII. They were big units taking up large air-conditioned rooms and had less power than todays handheld calculators.

http://www-1.ibm.com/ibm/history/history/decade_1940.html

"The war years also marked IBM's first steps toward computing. The Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, also called the Mark I, was completed in 1944 after six years of development with Harvard University. It was the first machine that could execute long computations automatically."

"Over 50 feet long, eight feet high and weighing almost five tons, the Mark I took less than a second to solve an addition problem but about six seconds for multiplication and twice as long for division - far slower than any pocket calculator today. Later in the decade, IBM introduced the Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator (1948) as the company's first large-scale digital calculating machine, the successful 604 Electronic Calculating Punch (1948) - 5,600 of which were built in a 10-year period - and the Card-Programmed Electronic Calculator (1949), the first IBM product designed specifically for computation centers."

Another site:

http://www.research.ibm.com/about/past_history.shtml

"1944 - MARK I COMPUTER. IBM introduces the world's first large-scale calculating computer. Designed in collaboration with Harvard University, the Mark I (or Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator) uses electromechanical relays to solve addition problems in less than a second, multiplication in six seconds, and division in 12 seconds."

And here is a post on the history of computers, which makes the following comment for the 1940-1950 period.

“In this period the first working computer systems emerge. Based upon evolution in sciences of the first decades of the century, and product of original thinking of a few pioneers like Zuse, Turing and Atanasoff. Meet the First Revolution..........."

http://www.digidome.nl/history1.htm

It is my opinion that the Germans could not have used IBM computers to schedule trains since they had not evolved for that purpose until well into the 1950's.


Bill Bailey - 10/2/2003


Black had an article on HNN some months ago. His book, which I have not read, seems quite overhyped, to say the least. It is very probable that German operational efficiency (which is not the same thing as efficient "planning") could have organized the train schedules and concentration camp operations using some other technology.


Bill Bailey - 10/2/2003

My reference to Marx was a bit oblique, but it is fair to reference the occasional overlaps between National SOCIALISM and the sort of central planning which (in Marx's name, at least) has had mostly ruinous long run results wherever it has been seriously applied. I am not aware of any major German economist historian, from Borchardt to Kocka to Rietschl, who cites state "planning" as an important factor in German economic success in any era. General "cultural" encouragements -universal education, state support for what Chandler calls "cooperative capitalism", etc. are a far cry from some kind of efficient government-run slave-labor economy, and I doubt very much whether forced labor at concentration camps such as Auschwitz made more than a marginal contribution to economic production at best. Indeed, the camps were probably an overall net cost, economically speaking.


Jonathan Dresner - 10/2/2003

The German railroad system used computers for scheduling, specifically IBM computers, and IBM's European subsidiary (with the full knowledge of the home office, for which at least one IBM executive won a German Iron Cross) continued to maintain these and supply them with punch cards throughout the war.

The complete title of the book is "IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation" by Edwin Black (Crown, 2001)


NYGuy - 10/2/2003

Jonathan,

I am not trying to pick a fight with you but would appreciate your evidence for the following comments;

"They certainly didn't want their prisoners to survive very long: they were shipping them in as fast as the IBM-scheduled trains could carry them.) ignores several thousand pieces of evidence in the form of orders, personal recollections, and extensive evidence of programs of mass execution carried out by a wide variety of methods."

NYGuy:

What products did IBM provide to prompt this statement. Sorry for my ignorance, but would like to understand.


Jonathan Dresner - 10/1/2003

Germany was a fine example of late 19th century economic planning: high state investment in strategic heavy industries, development of colonies for strategic resources, cooptation of unions' economic justice issues by the state (resulting in the first coherent state unemployment and disability system), national education systems to develop populations suitable to modern economic and military employment, state university system supporting science and technology. All of this added up to some of the fastest growth in the late industrial age. Look at how quickly the Germans recovered after WWI: quite impressive, actually.

I'm not going to make a strong argument in favor of the particular effectiveness of Nazi German economic planning, except to say that they, like their enemies and allies, engaged in a highly organized effort to harness the entire economic productivity of the German people and German businesses in pursuit of their war production. There were a lot of failings in this Total War economy, but most of them can be traced back to ideological decisions.

Marx wasn't an economic planner, but an historian and political activist. His analyses of class and identity have been very useful in the hands of historians and social scientists. His predictions for the future of capitalism have been pretty good (compared to a lot of people trying to predict socio-economic change on a grand scale) though he didn't anticipate the strength of the industrial middle-class (which is only now dissipating).


Bill Bailey - 10/1/2003


Your musical knowledge, and German musical accomplishment are not in question, Mr. Thomas. But "economic planning" as an especially Germanic skill ? As in the "planning" of famous German economist Karl Marx ? Better leave it with music, science, engineering, and with scholarly study of history, which, in the latter case, may have something do with why chancellor after postwar German chancellor has gone to Poland to lay wreaths at World War II and holocaust monuments.


Jesse Lamovsky - 10/1/2003

Mr. Thomas, to the best of my knowledge, is correct in his assessment that Auschwitz was not an "extermination camp", in the same sense that Sobibor, Belzec, and Treblinka were.

"...the use of hydrocyanic acid in contact with any form of masonry causes an intense chemical reaction, resulting in a stable compound called “Prussian Blue”, which is sometimes used for coloring ceramics. Prussian Blue is very hard, and impossible to remove without use of heavy machinery. None is, of course, present in the crematoria."

The only test of this I've heard of, formal or otherwise, is Fred Leuchler's "analysis" of the crematoria walls at Auschwitz in 1988 (conducted, it should be said, on the behalf of Canadian-German denier Ernst Zindel). Leuchler found no trace evidence of Zyklon-B in the walls, but it should be pointed out that as the gas residue only penetrates a fraction of an inch into concrete, that forty years had passed, and that Leuchler simply broke off a chunk of concrete with a chisel as opposed to taking care to preserve the integrity of a sample, this finding should not come as a surprise, and proves nothing. If Mr. Thomas knows of other analyses of the crematoria walls at Auschwitz, he's welcome to share them, of course.

"If the Nazi government wished to exterminate its political enemies, would it waste great quantities of precious fuel, needed by tanks and aircraft, to take them to East Poland, then waste even more fuel to cremate their bodies there?"

Well, why indeed? We can talk about German efficiency all we want, but this was a regime that often put ideology above economic good. The entire occupation of the Soviet Union was a monument to waste and inefficiency. Slave labor itself is an inefficient means of production. No doubt quite a few Wehrmacht officers were asking the same questions as Mr. Thomas during the war.

(It should be pointed out that Auschwitz was not located in eastern Poland, but in the old Hapsburg lands of southwestern Poland, not far from the German border. The camp itself was a former Austrian cavalry barracks.)

"They could have much more economically used the model developed by the Soviets in 1932: surround them and let them all starve to death."

Which is precisely what the Germans aimed to do in the Jewish ghettos of Lodz and Warsaw, and what they did to Ukrainians in the city of Kharkov. Remember, a great many of the prisoners in Polish concentration camps weren't Poles, but people from Nazi-occupied countries in Western Europe. They had to be transported hundreds of miles to the camps.

I am skeptical of a few of Mr. Thomas's points (that no gassings took place at Auschwitz, that the Germans wouldn't have transported people over great distances to their deaths because it wasn't "efficient"), but I certainly don't think it's fair to label him a "denier". He is a seeker of truth, and although his sentiments regarding the nature of the Shoah (why it happened and to what extent) have left me taken aback at times, he is constantly fair and reasonable.










Jonathan Dresner - 10/1/2003

Mr. Thomas,

The Germans were so efficient that they combined multiple functions in a single site: slave labor, genetic purification and genocide. One could argue that processing the deportees at the point of origin, to eliminate the large number of people killed on arrival, would be more efficient, but then you would need crematoria or other facilities in many more places. More importantly, following your limited economic logic, they would lose the efficient and thorough harvesting of resources from the dead: teeth, posessions, hair, skin, etc., were processed in bulk rather than in less efficient distributed operations.

No, Auschwitz was a perfectly logical industrial operation, including its function as an industrial-quality genocidal institution.


Jonathan Dresner - 10/1/2003

I'd like to echo Mr. Bailey's response: while the destruction of the Jewish community in Germany and the extermination of Jews made little economic or strategic sense (imagine: German Jewish physicists working in Germany instead of the US. Who would have had the bomb first?)(consider: slave labor is never as efficient or effective as labor motivated by either patriotic fervor or by wages) it is established historical fact. That irrational program was integral to the logic of Nazism, which required massive eugenic change including a "solution" to the problem of Jewish existence.

The rest of the "facts" which lead you to conclude that Auschwitz was a slave labor camp *rather than* a death camp (note: why can't it be both? Clearly the Nazis expected and planned for large quantities of death there. They certainly didn't want their prisoners to survive very long: they were shipping them in as fast as the IBM-scheduled trains could carry them.) ignores several thousand pieces of evidence in the form of orders, personal recollections, and extensive evidence of programs of mass execution carried out by a wide variety of methods. As you point out, the camp was dismantled and physical evidence was not preserved. It is clearly a case in which the lack of evidence is not a strong position from which to argue.


F.H.Thomas - 10/1/2003


I am no Hitler fan, and for that matter no Roosevelt fan, but if there are two things which Germans do really well, in addition to great music, science and poetry, it is military and economic planning. Talk about busting the 800 word limit, there are simply too many examples to mention.

But to do something as screechingly stupid as wasting precious fuel, urgently needed by their soldiers, to putatively haul a lot of people 1000 miles just to take em off the train and gas them, when an available no-cost alternative existed?

That dog don't hunt, sir.


Bill Bailey - 10/1/2003


To discuss all the moronic mistakes made by Hitler would bust the 800 word comment limit. Just because it was foolish for Germany's war effort to waste resources shipping train loads of Jews to death camps doesn't mean it didn't happen.


F.H.Thomas - 10/1/2003


Thank you for your learned comments.

I could not agree more that historical reality is what is essential. To get to that end, we have to evaluate and follow evidence, ignoring myths favoring some group or other.

You are right of course about Hollywoodizing of war. Truth is indeed the first casualty when they step in.

I would ask that you read through what I had to say, all the way through this time. You will notice that I did not deny anything, I supported a positive proposition with fact. Instead, I listed only the indisputable facts, which, for anyone of fair mind, support only one conclusion.

You stated that my comment uses "true but unconnected facts and dance(s) around a conclusion without proving it systematically and fairly". Not accurate, sir.

I never dance around a conclusion, and all the facts listed directly lead to that conclusion. My conclusion is that Auschwitz was certainly a slave labor camp, with an appalling death rate mainly related to disease. Nothing else is supported by the evidence. Get some evidence, and I will listen.

I understand very well that there are thought police around who will attempt to punish unorthodox thought about what Norm Finkelstein calls the "Holocaust Industry" which has greatly enriched many professional holocaust practicioners. Be brave.

I call your attention to my last paragraph:

"While Auschwitz as a slave labor camp makes economic sense, Auschwitz as an extermination camp is economically oxymoronic. If the Nazi government wished to exterminate its political enemies, would it waste great quantities of precious fuel, needed by tanks and aircraft, to take them to East Poland, then waste even more fuel to cremate their bodies there? They could have much more economically served if they used the model developed by the Soviets in 1932: surround them and let them all starve to death. Hitler was surely aware of this: he often railed against it in speeches as an example of what he called “Judeo-Bolshevism”, and given his warped personality, he would have enjoyed the irony of using the same method against them. No, only an economic imbecile, who wanted to lose the war for Germany, would have chosen Auschwitz as an extermination camp. However, what is sure is that the work of the Auschwitz slaves was of great value economically, without which, the war in the east could probably not have been prosecuted."

I thank you for your comments and wish you well.


Bill Bailey - 10/1/2003


This recitation is good example of the tactics of Holocaust denial at their "best" (most clever). List a bunch of true but unconnected facts and dance around a conclusion without proving it systematically and fairly. Auschwitz clearly included factories, it is pointed out, "therefore" it could not have also been an extermination camp.

The best antidote to such denials is a clear presentation of the unvarnished historical truth, warts and all, as straightfowardly and completely as it can be established, not Hollywoodesque sensationalizing. (For example, the oft-repeated 6 million figure is an estimate, not a certified fact - it might have been 5 million or 6 1/2 million- and includes fatalities from death marches not just the gas chambers). The actual history is dramatic enough, but even Spielberg's "Schindler's List" could not resist playing loose with the facts in order to make a "better story".

Too much of the Holocaust "memorializing", including the exhibits at Auschwitz, rely on sensationalistic imagery rather than carefully establishing the historical facts. And the denialists eat it up.


F.H.Thomas - 10/1/2003


There are enough mistaken ideas about this place, whose name evokes awe, and enough hypersensitivity and fear about discussing it, that I am concerned that a reasonable consensus will never emerge. Given that free intellectual intercourse is the start for any conciliation of viewpoints, let me list the undisputable facts:

We know with absolute certainty that the Germans did not disassemble and carry this facility away, but that the Russians did. Auschwitz-Birkenau was the site of one of the largest and newest factory complexes in the world at that time, 33 factories, the largest of which was the 2 factory complex of I.G. Farben, making fuel from coal, and essential to the Nazi war effort in the East. When the Russians rolled through in Spring of 1945, they “liberated” these factories for their own use, then dismantled them and sent them East, which is why they are not there today, except as reconstructions.

This factory and camp complex was photographed many times during the war by US, Soviet and British reconnaissance aircraft, the photographic record of which has appeared in many books and publications. One photograph, taken by a US pilot in 1944, is very often reprinted. It clearly shows the neat rows of barracks for the slave workers, within a rectangle fence. A gateway through the fence on the North side leads to I.G. Farben Fabrik Eins, with other works clustered around that. Workers worked 12 hour shifts, the factories operating around the clock. The best answer to the question of "why did the allies not bomb it?", is that they could see that it was almost entirely staffed by prisoners, who would suffer most from bombing, and because it was at the extreme range of allied bomber aircraft, being in eastern Poland.

What the pilots were seeing was undoubtedly a sophisticated slave labor manufacturing operation, which is consistent with the motto which the SS hung over the door "Arbeit Macht Frei", or "work will make you free". The administrative imperative was to make production quotas, no matter what, and to do that it was essential to maintain the health of the slave workers, which included men, women and children, (whose housing was separated), at minimum levels. The tattooing of slave workers, which would be oxymoronic if they were immediately to be killed and burned, is an indicator of how focused upon war production this facility was. The number of survivors who have these tatoos is an indicator of how extensive this operation really was.

Unquestionably, both Roosevelt and Churchill knew a great deal about the facility, its design and purpose, as did the military chiefs on all sides, because it use is mentioned in enough documents that widespread knowledge is clear. What is not clear or anywhere to be found is any contemporaneous mention of this facility as an extermination center.

Another motto over the gate to the sanitary and medical facility was more troubling and portentious: "Ein Laus, dein Leben", or "one louse, your life". Although strict sanitation was maintained, according to inspector general reports for the years 1942 And 1943, which survive, two awesome and horrific outbreaks of Typhus and Cholera together, nonetheless killed hundreds of thousands during the winters of 1943-44 and 1944-45. Cholera causes the sunken-eyed look, often seem in contemporaneous photographs of its victims, whether in camps or not. Combined with a near-starvation diet of only 1800 calories per day, these two diseases, which are always out there, waiting, at the edge of civilization, reached epidemic levels at Auschwitz-Birkenau twice. Both are treatable by antibiotics, which began to be in very short supply in the Summer of 1943 due to allied bombing of pharmaceutical production facilities. Both are spread by fleas, and lice, hence the warning, and both attack the weak or starving. Cholera causes uncontrolled diarrhea, with death by dehydration. The victim manifests sunken eyes, ribs stick out, shoulders come forward. Typhus causes high fever, terrible abdominal pain, and death through systemic failure. (NIH website). The problem was universal in Eastern Europe by 1944. Anne Frank died of Typhus another camp. Children were affected first and worst.

One gas chamber with the requisite seals, chemical barriers, etc has been found on the present grounds. However, it had 3-foot ceilings, was very small, and had a small opening one would have to crawl through, meaning that it could not have been used for people. Apparently it was used to de-louse clothing. A product designed expressly for that purpose, Zyklon-B (hydrocyanic acid) was part of the supplies routinely ordered for that purpose, according to commercial documents, in quantities commensurate with fumigation needs.

Other gas chambers have never been found. Some writers have suggested that the crematoria were gas chambers, but they lack the seals and ventilation systems, which would make their use suicidal. The disposition of victims of Cholera and Typhus, however, could only be safely done by cremation, which probably was the purpose of these facilities.

Furthermore, the use of hydrocyanic acid in contact with any form of masonry causes an intense chemical reaction, resulting in a stable compound called “Prussian Blue”, which is sometimes used for coloring ceramics. Prussian Blue is very hard, and impossible to remove without use of heavy machinery. None is, of course, present in the crematoria. In terms of concrete (sic) evidence of gassing of human beings at this facility, we have to say that there is no physical evidence of it.

While Auschwitz as a slave labor camp makes economic sense, Auschwitz as an extermination camp is economically oxymoronic. If the Nazi government wished to exterminate its political enemies, would it waste great quantities of precious fuel, needed by tanks and aircraft, to take them to East Poland, then waste even more fuel to cremate their bodies there? They could have much more economically used the model developed by the Soviets in 1932: surround them and let them all starve to death. Hitler was surely aware of this: he often railed against it in speeches as an example of what he called “Judeo-Bolshevism”, and given his warped personality, he would have enjoyed the irony of using the same method against them. No, only an economic imbecile, who wanted to lose the war for Germany, would have chosen Auschwitz as an extermination camp. However, what is sure is that the work of the Auschwitz slaves was of great value economically, without which, the war in the east could probably not have been prosecuted.

Sources are important in this analysis. The KGB released many documents from Auschwitz when the Soviet Union fell. The German documents have in many cases been there all along, although not universally referenced, for political reasons. The most credible are the aerial photos, which, combined with a little common sense and economic analysis, detail convincingly the use to which this facility was put.



Bill Bailey - 9/29/2003

It would be interesting to know when it was that Mr. Speer visited Auschwitz. I spent the better part of a day there in 1990 and went through the whole area thoroughly. There were no large parking lots, no kiosks selling hot dogs and ice cream, and no crematoria anywhere in sight. There was only one very small reconstructed gas chamber, and almost no information as to where, on the various sites, the actual killing and cremating had occurred. Apparently some things have changed over the last decade or so, including revision of the Soviet Era exhibits I saw, but mostly on a superficial level.

Practically everything Mr. Speer describes was well known to me before I visited Auschwitz - from movies I had seen. Indeed, when I went over to Birkenau (the main part of Auschwitz which Speer apparently skipped), a film, with prisoners in the familiar gray pajama-like suits, was being made there on location. Having read Wiesel and others already, I specifically went to Auschwitz because I wanted to see first hand what the Nazis actually did and how they did it, not so that I could "relive the drama and horror" for the umpteenth time. I discovered a lot of interesting things on my visit, and also more than a little questionable propaganda, and have since learned that the Nazis destroyed Auschwitz when they fled in the final months of the war, so that nearly everything tourists see now at the Auschwitz camps has been reconstructed.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that it has been extensively documented and proven that millions of Jews and others were deliberately and systematically rounded up, transported to, and then gassed and cremated in these concentration and extermination camps by the Nazis and their collaborators. But visiting Auschwitz, and reading Speer's Disneyland account of his experience there, makes it easier to understand how Holocaust denial myths are so readily able to keep springing up, like unstoppable weeds in the garden of history. I have encountered cartoonization of the past in other locations too, but I would have thought that a certain sense of respect might have been a restraining factor in the case of Auschwitz. Hardly at all, it turns out, and this article is a reminder of how deeply rooted is the urge to trivialize the past.