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Dr Elchanan Elkes chairman of the Kovno Judenrat

Letters to London

1943 – the chairman writes to his children about life in the Kovno ghetto

 

 

  

Dr Elchanan Elke
Dr Elchanan Elkes of the Kovno Judenrat

My beloved son and daughter!

 

I am writing these lines, my dear children, in the vale of tears of Vilijampole, Kovno Ghetto, where we have been for over two years. We have now heard that in a few days our fate is to be sealed. The Ghetto is to be crushed and torn asunder.

 

Whether we are all to perish, or whether a few of us are to survive, is in God’s hands, we fear that only those capable of slave labour will live; the rest of probably are sentenced to death.

 

We are left, a few out of many. Out of the 35,000 Jews of Kovno, approximately 17,000 remain; out of a quarter of a million Jews in Lithuania (including the Vilna district), only 25,000 live plus 5,000 who, during the last few days, were deported to hard labour in Latvia, stripped of all their belongings. The rest were put to death in terrible ways by the followers of the greatest Haman of all time and all generations.

 

Some of those dear and close to us, too, are no longer with us. Your Aunt Hannah and Uncle Arieh were killed with 1,500 souls of the Ghetto on October 4, 1941. Uncle Zvi, who was lying in the hospital suffering from a broken leg, was saved by a miracle. All the patients, doctors, nurses, relatives, and visitors who happened to be there were burned to death, after soldiers had blocked all the doors and windows of the hospital and set fire to it. In the provinces, apart from Siauliai, no single Jew survives.

 

Your Uncle Dov and his son Shmuel were taken out and killed with the rest of the Kalvaria community during the first months of the war, that is about two years ago

 

Jews burned alive at Kovno 
Corpses of Jews reported to have been burned alive in the Kovno ghetto

Due to outer forces and inner circumstances, only our own Ghetto has managed to survive and live out its diaspora life for the past two years, in slavery, hard labour and deprivation – almost all our clothing, belongings, and books were taken from us by the authorities.

 

The last massacre, when 10,000 victims were killed at one time, took place on October 28, 1941. Our total community had to go through the “selection” by our rulers: life or death. I am the man who, with my own eyes, saw those about to die.

 

I was there early on the morning of October 29, in the camp that led to the slaughter at the Ninth Fort. With my own ears I heard the awe-inspiring and terrible symphony, the weeping and screaming of 10,000 people, old and young – a scream that tore at the heart of heaven. No ear had heard such cries through the ages and the generations.

 

With many of our martyrs, I challenged my creator; and with them, from a heart torn in agony, I cried; “Who is like you in the universe, my Lord!” In my effort to save people here and there, I was beaten by soldiers. Wounded and bleeding, I fainted, and was carried in the arms of friends to a place outside the camp. There, a small group of about thirty or forty survived – witnesses to the fire.

 

German soldiers shooting Jews outside the Kovno ghetto 
German soldiers murder Jews from Kovno in pits near the ghetto

We are, it appears, one of the staging centres in the East. Before our eyes, before the very windows of our houses, there have passed over the last two years many, many thousands of Jews from southern Germany and Vienna, to be taken, with their belongings, to the Ninth Fort, which is some kilometres from us. There they are killed with extreme cruelty. We learned later that they were misled – they were told they were coming to Kovno, to settle in our Ghetto.

 

From the day of the Ghetto’s founding, I stood at its head. Our community chose me, and the authorities confirmed me as chairman of the Council of elders, together with my friend, the advocate Leib Garfunkel, a former member of the Lithuanian parliament, and a few other close and good people, concerned and caring for the fate of the surviving few.

 

We are trying to steer our battered ship in furious seas, when waves of decrees and decisions threaten to drown it every day. Through my influence I succeeded, at times, in easing the verdict and in scattering some of the dark clouds that hung over our heads. I bore my duties with head high and an upright countenance. Never did I ask for pity; never did I doubt our rights. I argued our case with total confidence in the justice of our demands.

 

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/survivor/elkes-london-letter.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T

The Breendonk Internment camp

Breendonck

Internment Camp in Belgium

 

German troops outside the main entrance to the Breendonck camp

The camp known as Breendonck was located in the village of Breendonk, about 20 km outside of Mechelen. Built in 1906 the fortress was erected near the junction of the Antwerp – Brussels and Mechelen – Dendermonde roads, as part of a chain of fortifications.

 

The fortress fell during the German invasion in 1914 and later it became the general Headquarters of the Belgian Army. In May 1940 Breendonck was briefly used as the General Headquarters of King Leopold III, leading the Belgian armed forces.

 

After Belgium’s surrender to the Germans the fortress was transformed into an internment camp by the Nazis (primarily as a transit camp for transport to Auschwitz). It gained a grim reputation as a place of torture and interrogation of a wide variety of prisoners.

 

This fortress surrounded by a moat, consists of a building measuring 200 by 300 meters and can still be seen today, as a museum and memorial.The museum is only a part of the entire complex. There are different rooms with displays detailing the Nazi-occupation of Belgium, the SS rule at Breendonk, as well as to the post-war trials of the executors.

 

In the former showers and kitchen works of art can be seen that was made by the prisoners.

 

Breendonck as an internment camp

 

At the end of August 1940 the Germans turned the fortress into a Polizeihaftlager and three weeks later, on 20 September the first group of detainees, numbering twenty persons, mostly “politicals” and Jews of foreign nationality, were brought to the camp.

 

The camp was under the control of the Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police) and was run by SS men, with Wehrmacht personnel serving as guards. At the end of 1941 they were joined by Belgian SS men. Among the Belgian SS –men were Wijss, De Bodt, and Pellemans, who were renowned for their cruelty.

 

The physical conditions at Breendonk were among the worst in Western European camps. In addition, the camp commanders subjected the prisoners to terrible cruelty and violence.

 

Philip Schmitt

During the first year of the Occupation, the Jews made up half the total number of prisoners. From 1942 onwards and the creation of the internment camp at the Dossin barracks where the Jews were assembled before their departure towards the east and the extermination camps, most of the Jews disappeared from Breendonk, which gradually became a camp for political prisoners and members of the Resistance.

 

The first commandant of the camp was Sturmbannfuhrer Philip Schmitt, who was followed in 1943, by an Austrian Karl Schonwetter.

 

The officer in charge of forced labour was Untersturmfuhrer Artur Prauss, who had the reputation of being the most cruel person in the camp staff. The camp commandant came directly under the authority of the Security Police chief for Belgium and Northern France, Konstantin Canaris, and then of his successor Ernst Ehlers.

 

In the initial phase conditions in the camp were reasonably tolerable, and the Jewish prisoners were not separated from the non-Jews. But at the end of 1940 this changed, and the “Aryan” prisoners were put into separate living quarters, although both groups continued to work side by side.

 

At first the Jews were in the majority, but during 1942 when the deportations from Belgium commenced, their numbers decreased. Almost all the Jews of Belgium were then put into the Jewish transit camp at Mechelen, prior to deportation to Poland and probable death in the extermination camps.

 

The non-Jewish group consisted mostly of members of the underground, mostly leftist groups, hostages and black market operators. The total number of prisoners incarcerated in the camp is estimated as having ranged from 3,000 to 3,600 of whom seven percent were Jews, but no precise figures are available.

 

Some 300 persons perished in the camp from torture, harassment and the harsh conditions, 450 were executed by shooting and 14 were hanged. 54 Jews were deported to Auschwitz and of the 165 others, 65 died in the camp.

 

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/nazioccupation/breendonck.html

 

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2011

Munich – The city at the heart of Nazism!

Munich   

 

 The city at the heart of Nazism

 

 

Marketplace in Munich (circa 1650)

Munich the capital of the German state of Bavaria, which is in Southern Germany, was the home of the Nazi movement and the site of the model concentration camp at Dachau. 

Jews were living in Munich at the beginning of the thirteenth century, but they were expelled in 1442, and by 1790 there were only 127 Jews living in Munich.

 

A fundamental change for the Jewish life occurred on June 10th, 1813, the “Jews edict” was passed, which allowed Jews to acquire citizenship and estates. In 1826 a Synagogue was opened, and in 1848 the Jews gained the right to vote and to be elected for public office.


In 1880 the pogroms in Russia resulted in an influx of eastern Jews to Munich, and opened up lucrative businesses in leather goods and fur trading. In 1892, the Ohel Jakob synagogue was opened, which seated 1000 men and 800 women. This was the 3rd largest synagogue in Germany.
 

By 1933, 9005 Jews were living in Munich which was 1.2 percent of the total population of the city. Munich’s Jews played a prominent role in its economic, social and cultural life, and took part in multi-faceted Jewish religious and communal activities.

 

The central offices of many Jewish national institutions were located there, and a Zionist weekly and the official organ of the Union of Jewish Communities in Bavaria were published in the city.

 

As the First World War drew to an end, anti-Semitic incidents became increasingly frequent. From November 1918 to February 1919 a Soviet – style revolutionary government held power in Bavaria, headed by Kurt Eisner and including several other prominent Jews.

 

As a result, an anti-Semitic wave set in, and attacks were launched on Jews throughout the city, especially those of Eastern European origin. On the 23 April 1920, Bavarian prime minister Ritter von Kahr issued an order for the expulsion of the Jews and it took much effort to prevent this order from being carried out.

 

Hitler and the Nazi Party

 

The precursor to the NSDAP was the Deutscher Arbeiterpartei (DAP – German Workers Party) was founded in the hotel Fürstenfelder Hof in Munich on 5 January 1919. When the Party reorganized as the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter Partei (NSDAP – National Socialist German Workers Party), it had offices in the Sterneckerbräu brewery at Tal 54, near the city center.

 

Having recently overcome temporary blindness resulting from exposure to mustard gas during the war, Hitler  made his way back to Munich in the summer of 1919 and was assigned by the Reichswehr  to "educational" duties which consisted largely of spying on political parties in the overheated atmosphere of post-revolutionary Munich.

 

Crowd photo and close-up of Adolf Hitler in Munich 1914

Hitler was sent to investigate a small nationalistic group of idealists, the German Workers’ Party. On 16 September 1919 he entered the Party (which had approximately forty members), soon changed its name to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) and had imposed himself as its Chairman by July 1921.

 

The official Party platform was formulated on 24 February 1920, and Adolf Hitler  outlined the Party program to the public in the famous Hofbräuhaus beer hall that same evening.Hitler focused his propaganda against the Versailles Treaty, the "November criminals," the Marxists and the visible, internal enemy No. 1, the "Jew," who was responsible for all Germany’s domestic problems.

 

In the twenty-five-point programme of the NSDAP  the exclusion of the Jews from the Volk community, the myth of Aryan race supremacy and extreme nationalism were combined with "socialistic" ideas of profit-sharing and nationalization inspired by ideologues like Gottfried Feder.

 

Hitler’s first written utterance on political questions dating from this period emphasized that what he called "the anti-Semitism of reason" must lead "to the systematic combating and elimination of Jewish privileges. Its ultimate goal must implacably be the total removal of the Jews."

 

The Munich Putsch

 

The Bavarian government defied the Weimar Republic, accusing it of being too far left. Hitler personally endorsed the fall of the Weimar Republic, and declared at a public rally on October 30, 1923 that he was prepared to march on Berlin to rid the government of the Communists and the Jews.

On November 8, 1923, Hitler held a rally at a Munich beer hall and proclaimed a revolution. The following day, he led 2,000 armed "brown-shirts" in an attempt to take over the Bavarian government. The small Nazi Party first won national attention in the Beer Hall Putsch of November 1923, when the Ruhr crisis and the great inflation were at their height. Hitler and his Nazis joined with General Erich Ludendorff (1865-1937) and his conservative nationalist followers in an attempt to seize power in Munich. (The plot got its name because it was planned in one of Munich’s beer halls.)

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/nazioccupation/munich.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2011

Holocaust Ghettos – Minsk!

The Minsk Ghetto

                                                        

Jewish Minsk

Minsk, capital of the Belorussian SSR, in 1926 the Jewish population of Minsk was 53,686, by June 1941 the number had grown to 80,000, constituting one- third of the city’s population.

 

Only a small fraction of the Jews managed to escape from the city in the six days between the German invasion of the Soviet Union and the conquest of Minsk on 28 June 1941.

 

German parachutists who had been dropped east of the city intercepted thousands of Jews who were trying to flee and forced them to return. When the civil administration was set up Minsk became the headquarters of the Generalkommissar for Belorussian Wilhelm Kube.

 

Kube was murdered on 22 September 1943 was killed by a bomb planted under his bed, by his maid, a Soviet partisan.

 

On 8 July 1941, the Germans killed 100 Jews and thereafter the murder of Jews by the Germans singly or in groups, became a daily event. On 20 July 1941, an order was issued on the establishment of the ghetto.

 

Its area comprised thirty-four streets and alleys, as well as the Jewish cemetery, some of the streets included:

  • Kollektornaia

  • Kolkhoznaia

  • Nemiga

  • Obuvnaia

  • Perekopskaia

  • Respublikanskaia

  • Shornaia

  • Zaslavskaia

Some of the lanes included: 

  • Kolkhoznyi

  • Mebel’nyi

  • Vtoroi Opanskii

  • Yubileiny Square

The ghetto was surrounded by thick rows of barbed wire, watchtowers were erected and round the clock surveillance was established. A living space of 1.5 square meters was allotted for each person, with no space allotted for children. Thousands of the ghetto inhabitants lived among the ruins of destroyed or gutted houses without floors or windows. A curfew was in force from 2200 to 0500 hours.

 

Entrance to the Minsk Ghetto

Jews from Slutsk, Dzerzhinsk, Cherven, Uzda and other nearby places were brought into the ghetto. Married couples with one non-Jewish partner were also put into the ghetto as were their children. Altogether, 100,000 persons were rounded up and put behind the ghetto walls.

 

In August 1941 5,000 Jews were seized and murdered, the surviving Jews were forced to pay a ransom, to report every Sunday for roll call, and to wear a yellow badge on their back and chest, as well as white patch on their chest with their house number.

 

News of the killings in Minsk and other places in the East was sent to the chief of the Gestapo in Berlin, Heinrich Muller, who asked Adolf Eichmann to see him, Eichmann being the SS officer in charge of the department IV-D-4, responsible for deportations and emigrations.

 

Twenty years later, in a court in Jerusalem, on trial for his life, Eichmann recalled that Muller had said to him; “In Minsk they’re shooting Jews. I want you to report how it’s going.”

 

 

 

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/ghettos/minsk.html
 


The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2011

Nazi Labor Camp HASAG

 

HASAG

Hugo Schneider Aktiengesellschaft Metalwarenfabrik

 

 

 

A view of the HASAG camp at Czestochowa

HASAG was founded in Leipzig Germany in 1863 as a small lamp factory and became the Hugo Schneider Aktiengesellschaft in 1889, when it was converted into a metal products factory.

 

In 1930 the company had about one thousand employees and an annual turnover of 5 million marks. In 1932 Paul Budin, a member of the Nazi Party and a Sturmbannfuhrer in the SS, was appointed General Manager of HASAG. His deputies were Dr. Georg Mumme, Hans Fuhrer and Gustav Hessen; Dr Ernst von Schon was Chairman of the Board, and the shareholders included Hugo Zinsser, Ernst von Wildeneg and Richard Koch.

 

Beginning in 1933, the company developed contacts with the infantry ordnance branch of the Wehrmacht High Command, and it became a regular supplier of ammunition to the infantry and the Luftwaffe.

 

In 1934 HASAG was classified as a Wehrmachtsbetrieb (a company working for the armed forces). By 1939 its annual turnover was 22 million marks and it employed thirty-seven hundred workers.

 

HASAG’s status was raised to that of Rustungsbetrieb (armament’s company) in 1939. When the German armaments industry was re-organised in 1940, Budin was appointed the Chairman of Special Committee II, which had the task of supervising the production in the Reich of light ammunition for the infantry and the air force.

 

When Albert Speer was appointed Minister of Armaments in 1942, the committee’s range of responsibilities was broadened and Budin’s stature also grew as a result. In 1944 HASAG was charged with the mass production of infantry rocket launchers and received Hitler’s thanks for its achievements. HASAG – Leipzig was also singled out as an “Exemplary National Socialist Enterprise.”

 

In Germany during the war HASAG had eight plants in Germany, with two categories of workers. The first was that of civilian workers, men and women from all over Europe, especially the Slavic countries.

 

Some chose to work for HASAG but the majority were forced labourers, by 1941 HASAG was employing a large number of Polish and Croatian voluntary workers, and in subsequent years it also employed French and Russian workers.

 

Special open camps were established in the vicinity of the plants for the Slavic workers, but they were kept under strict police surveillance, the pay for these workers was very low.

 

The second category was that of concentration camp prisoners. Beginning in the summer of 1944, labour camps were established next to each HASAG plant, all of them as Aussenkommandos (satellite units) of the Buchenwald concentration camp.

 

According to incomplete data based on the Buchenwald concentration camp card index, the composition and size of the work force in the HASAG labour camps on the 31 January 1945 was as follows:

 

Aussenkommando

Number

Location

Number of Jewish Men

Number of Women

Total

3

Altenburg

52

2616

2668

24

Colditz

300

 

300

42

Flossberg

396

 

396

65

Leipzig

221

5067

5288

74

Meuselwitz

290

1376

1666

95

Schlieben

2,339

242

2581

107

Taucha

426

1256

 

1682

Total

 

4024

10557

14581

 

The employment by the HASAG industries of such a large number of female forced labourers was determined by a number of factors: 

  • The mechanisation and automation of the production of small – and medium-size munitions enabled women to replace men in the assembly line.

  • Women cost less than men. HASAG paid the SS less for women prisoners, both in the Reich and the nt. Generalgouvernement.

  • HASAG’s experience with Jewish forced labour showed that, all other things being equal, women’s adaptability and resilience were much greater than men’s. The average mortality rate was higher for men than for women.

Slave laborers from Czestochowa marched to the camp at HASAG

Between twenty thousand and twenty-two thousand prisoners of different nationalities passed through the HASAG labour camps in Germany from their establishment until their final liquidation in April 1945.

 

With the advance of the Allied forces, some of the prisoners were transferred to other camps, some prisoners embarked on “death marches” in small groups and it is difficult to estimate the number of prisoners who were murdered or who died en route.

 

Between 70 and 80 percent of the Jewish prisoners in the HASAG camps in Germany were estimated to have survived.

In Poland following the German invasion in September 1939 and occupation HASAG began operating in the Radom district and a year later in 1940 on the recommendations of the Armed Forces High Command HASAG was put in charge of the administration of the ammunition factories in Skarzysko – Kamienna, the Granat grenade factory in Kielce and the Rakow foundry in Czestochowa.

 

The three plants were also classified as Wehrmachtsbetriebe and in early 1943 HASAG acquired the plants from the Generalgouvernement for a payment of 16.5 million zlotys – 1.5 million Reichsmarks.

 

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/nazioccupation/hasag.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

Holocaust Heros Mordechai Anielewicz!

Mordechai Anielewicz

 

 

Mordechai Anielewicz

Mordechai Anielewicz was born in Wyszkow near Warsaw in 1919, and grew up in a working class Jewish family. After finishing secondary education he joined the Zionist movement Ha-Shomer ha- Tsa’ir where he distinguished himself as an organiser and leader.

 

On the 7 September 1939 a week after the German invasion of Poland Anielewicz went with members of his group from Warsaw to the eastern regions of the country. Anielewicz attempted to cross the Rumanian border in order to open a route for young Jews to go to Palestine. However, he was apprehended and imprisoned in a Soviet prison cell. He was released and returned to Warsaw.

 

He went to Vilna where Jewish refugees and other political groups had gathered, to convince Jews to return to Poland and resist the harsh German rule. He returned to Warsaw in January 1940 with his girlfriend Mira Fuchrer where he continued his work with the Jewish underground.  

 

By mid-1941, Anielewicz began concentrating on transforming the underground youth movements into an armed resistance movement and he also began creating self-defence organisations within the Warsaw ghetto.

 

Emanuel Ringelblum recalled a Ha-Shomer ha – Za’ir seminar in January 1942:

 

“Once, during a break between classes in the Ha-Shomer seminar (I lectured on the history of the Jewish labour movements), Mordechai Anielewicz and Yosef Kaplan called me down into the yard of the building at 23 Nalewki Street.

 

They let me into a special room and showed me two revolvers. These revolvers, the members of the central leadership explained to me, were to be employed to train youth in the use of arms. This was the first step taken by Ha-Shomer Ha-Za’ir even before the Fighting Organisation was founded.”

 

Anielewicz was engaged in underground work in the Bedzin- Sosnowiec area in eastern Silesia and he returned to Warsaw when he learnt about the mass deportations from Warsaw which commenced on the 22 July 1942.

 

In the beginning of October1942 discussions were held by the various Jewish underground organisations and on the 15 October the decision was taken to form a joint fighting organisation, and the Bund agreed to join the Z.O.B (Zydowska Organizac Bojowa – Jewish Combat Organisation) without reservation.   

 

The first measures the Z.O.B took was against the leading Jews who had helped the Germans during the mass deportations from Warsaw to the Treblinka death camp, such as the two Jewish Order Police members Szerynski and Lejkin, and Yisrael First, the director of the Economic Department of the Judenrat.

 

Josef Kaplan, a leader of the underground organization ZOB

When the Germans commenced the Second “Aktion” from the 18 – 22 January 1943 to Treblinka death camp, it was a very different Jewish population that faced them. Von Sammern- Frankenegg the SSPF Warsaw had promised Himmler that the ghetto “excess” would be deported without undue difficulty.

 

Robust bunkers and hideouts had been constructed during the period from the cessation of the “aktion” on the later part of September 1942 to January 1943, the Z.O.B were now preparing to fight the Germans in the ghetto streets, as Von Sammern, was soon to find out.

 

The first group involved in the January fighting was a band of Ha-Shomer ha- Za’ir members commanded by Mordechai Anielewicz. Armed with pistols and hand grenades, the group attached itself to a long procession of Jews being led to the Umschlagplatz.

 

The fighters dispersed along the length of this march and each of its members singled out one of the soldiers guarding the column. At a given signal, the fighters sprang out of line and opened fire.

 

A short battle, on the corner of Zamenhofa and Niska, followed, with a number of Germans killed and wounded, while others fled. Most of the Jewish fighters fell as well, Eliyahu Rozanski, who had assassinated Lejkin, fought with great valour, died from his wounds.

 

 

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/ghettos/anielewicz.html

 

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

Can Vienna come to terms with its past?

Vienna

Can a city come to terms with its past?

 by Carmelo Lisciotto
 

 

Anti-Semitism in Vienna

 

There are many reminders of Jewish life in Austria, and especially in Vienna. In 2001, the General Settlement Fund for Victims of National Socialism was established on the basis of the Washington Agreement in order to enable a comprehensive resolution to open questions of compensation for victims of National Socialism on the territory of the present day Republic of Austria. Both institutions pursue a common goal: The recognition of Austria’s special responsibility towards the victims of the National Socialist regime.

 

The Jewish renaissance in Vienna began in 1848 and lasted until the start of World War II. Jews were granted civil rights, partially due to their participation in the 1848 civil war and were allowed to form their own autonomous religious community, which served the Jewish population of Vienna and of Austria as well. Vienna also became a center of the Haskalah, a movement toward secular enlightenment.

 

The contribution of the city’s Jews to music, literature, visual arts, and theater at the end of the nineteenth century and in the early decades of the twentieth was immense. The idea of establishing the Secession art association, and constructing its magnificent art nouveau gallery, was born in Berta Zuckerkandl’s salon.

 

Composers such as Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schönberg, and Alexander Zelimsky were leading figures in Vienna’s musical life. The list of Viennese writers and journalists of Jewish origin is long and distinguished, and accounts for a major part of twentieth-century Austrian literature. Arthur Schnitzler, Peter Altenberg, Karl Kraus, Franz Werfel, Stefan Zweig, Franz Kafka, Friedrich Torberg, Hans Weigel, Elias Canetti, Jura Soyfer, Hilde Spiel – each name stands for a specific chapter in Austrian literary history.

 

The birth of Nazism caused yet another dramatic rupture in the historical development of the city in general and its Jewish community in particular. Before 1938, the Jewish community was one of the largest in Europe numbering some 185,000. After 1945, a small but active Jewish community reestablished itself again; today, it comprises about 7,000 members – of the 10,000 to 12,000 Jews who live in Vienna at present.

During the past two decades, the city has stepped up efforts to face up to the history of Jews in Vienna, including both positive and negative aspects, and to reexamine Vienna’s Jewish heritage. In addition to the Jewish institutions that have sprung up over the last few years – thanks to the support of the City of Vienna – a number of museums and memorials evoke the city’s Jewish heritage.

 

Is Austria, by taking such concrete measures, finally coming to terms with its past?

 

 (Let’s examine)

 


 

Jewish Vienna Today

 

The traditional religious center of Jewish life in Vienna is the Vienna City Temple. It is the only synagogue that survived the pogrom of November 1938. The building complex at Seitenstettengasse 4 houses not only the synagogue, but also the offices of the Vienna Jewish Community, the Vienna Chief Rabbi, the editorial offices of the official community newspaper Die Gemeinde, the Jewish community center which stages various events and the Library of the Jewish Museum.


 

The Judenplatz in Vienna

Near Seitenstettengasse, in the heart of the so-called “Bermuda Triangle” – a popular bar and restaurant hotspot – there is yet another focal point on Judenplatz which confronts visitors with Jewish life past and present: the Shoah Memorial and the Judenplatz Museum, opened in fall 2000.

On the way from Seitenstettengasse to Judenplatz, you pass the Old City Hall (Altes Rathaus – Wipplingerstrasse 8, 1010 Wien), where the Documentation Archives of the Austrian Resistance are located; they document the crimes of National Socialism and include important materials about right-wing extremist and racist developments in Austria.

Long pursued half-heartedly, the issue of compensation and restitution of the victims of National Socialism has been addressed at various levels in the past decade. The appointment of the Austrian Historical Commission in 1998 at last marked the creation of a body to scientifically and comprehensively investigate the whole complex of expropriation of Jewish property in all areas of business and society.

 

On January 17, 2001 the Republic of Austria committed itself to reparations under the Washington Agreement that compensate for property and assets that were stolen during the Nazi era. Under the Austrian General Settlement Fund Law (“Entschädigungsfondsgesetz”), a general fund was set up in 2001 to comprehensively address open claims regarding compensation for victims of National Socialism.

 


 

Jewish Vienna Then

 

The signs of Anti-Semitism’s approaching collapse are increasing: 

Vienna is still the stronghold of anti-Semitism, and Dr. Carl Lueger, the Burgomaster, its most notorious exponent in Europe. For nearly three years the administration of the Austrian capital has now been in the hands of the anti-Semitic party, but the signs of its approaching collapse are increasing.

Upon the head of Dr. Lueger, that greatly overestimated man, the shadows of evening are already beginning to descend. Only a year ago the interesting face and slender figure of “handsome Carl” were to be seen in a hundred representations of every kind; women displayed his picture in brooches and medallions, every barrel organ in the suburban courts and alleys, and every band in the Prater beer gardens, played the “Lueger March” amid frantic applause.

 

Dr. Karl Lueger

Today Lueger’s portrait is hardly anywhere to be seen, the notes of the “Lueger March” have ceased to assail unwilling ears, and the barrel organs have taken out the Lueger plate. In office anti-Semitism still is, but on the minds of the befooled million a light has begun to break. Lueger’s lieutenants–Schneider, Gregorig, Gessmann and Vergani—feel this change even more than their leader himself. Indeed the Christian Social leaders, who on every opportunity were hailed by the multitude, now feel no longer even safe; their houses have to be watched day and night by the police. Now the people’s leaders have to be protected from the people by the police.

 

To any critical observer it has been clear that the anti-Semitic regime could not last long. It is a peculiarity of this singular movement that it soon works itself out. Germany first started it. But the movement makes no progress there; in fact, it is now less than it was ten years ago.

But from Germany anti-Semitism, nevertheless, made its way first to Russia, her Polish provinces, and to Rumania. There the ground had been well prepared as even before that time society and legislation had been anything but favorable to the Jewish race. It had always held an exceptional position, and been tolerated only. In those countries, the anti-Semitic doctrine resulted merely in violent but isolated outbreaks of the mob against the Jews. Such fits repeated twice or thrice resulted in an influx of pauper Jews into England and America; but for about ten years little or nothing has been heard out of this movement.

 

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/essays&editorials/wien.html

 

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

 

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

Holocaust Propaganda – Julius Streicher

Julius Streicher

 

The Beast of Franconia

 

 

 

Julius Streicher

Julius Streicher was born on 12 February 1885 in the Upper Bavarian village of Fleinhausen. An elementary school teacher by profession, Streicher served in a Bavarian unit during the Great War and despite a warning for bad behaviour was awarded the Iron Cross First Class, and he rose from enlisted man to lieutenant.

 

In 1919 he co-founded the anti-Semitic Deutsch-Soziale Partei and two years later joined the NSDAP, taking his own Party membership with him. Streicher was an intimate friend of Adolf Hitler and one of the earliest supporters of Nazism in northern Bavaria.

 

In 1925 he was appointed Gauleiter of the NSDAP for Franconia and his headquarters in Nuremberg became a leading centre for violent anti-Semitism in Germany. Streicher’s unbecoming conduct and diatribes against the Weimar Government led to his dismissal from his teaching post in 1928.

 

A year later he was elected as a Nazi member of the Bavarian legislature. Streicher was a tireless speaker and plebeian rabble-rouser, whose political influence derived largely from the impact of Der Stürmer, which he founded in 1923 and continued to edit until 1945.

 

This weekly newspaper became the world’s best known anti-Semitic publication with its crude cartoons, repellent photographs of Jews, its stories of ritual murder, pornography and its coarse prose style.

 

Streicher reached millions of Germans, through his newspaper columns, and his endless speaking tours imbuing them, with his own poisonous brew of hatred, sadism and perversity. The impact of Der Stürmer as greatly enhanced by a nationwide system of display cases (Stürmerkasten) put up in parks, public squares, factory canteens, at street corners and bus stops, to attract passers- by.

 

Their visual impact, their racists slogans and scandal- mongering style drew crowds, Der Stürmer consistently carried large- print slogans such as “Avoid Jewish Doctors and Lawyers” and gave listings of Jewish dentists, shopkeepers, and professional people  whom “Aryans” were urged to avoid.

 

Those who ignored this advice were in danger of having their own names and addresses listed. Letters to the editor denouncing Jews – and Germans who patronised them – became a regular feature of Der Stürmer, which claimed in 1935 that it was receiving 11,000 letters a week.

Read the full article about Julius Streicher here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/holoprelude/streicher.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

The trial and execution of Amon Goeth

The Trial of Amon Goeth Part 3

 

Sentencing, Execution and Conclusion

 

 

28th of September 1946

 


 

The Chairman summons all witnesses who are identified, he then instructs them as to their obligation to tell the truth, they are then taken out of the court hall, with the exception of witness Mr. Pemper who remains to give evidence.

 

Judge Zembaty: Is the witness able to establish the number of victims in the camp of Plaszow?

 

Witness Pemper: This would not be easy for me, as I have worked in the camp command office. I do not know that the mortality rate from natural causes was very low, even unexplainably low. As far as mortality due to non natural causes, there were approximately 500 persons killed due to repressive measures connected with escapes.

 

Judge Zembaty: In total, what does the witness estimate the number to be?

 

Witness Pemper: I am certain, that excluding the transport of 14th of May, the number exceeded 5-6,000. The victims resulting from the liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto, I estimate at 2,000 in the camp alone.

 

Including all the victims, also those connected with the action from the Ghetto of Tarnow, adding various selections, group incidents, and singles, I am certain the figure is well in excess of 5,000 persons.

 

Judge Zembaty: Whenever a prisoner was killed, for example, savaged by dogs, or shot, in what manner would this be recorded in the camp records, what reasons for such details were entered in the camp files?

 

Witness: Pemper: These records were only introduced in the period when the camp was functioning as a concentration camp, before that only files existed, 4 types of files. In those files, a death was noted with the word “Abgang” (departure) without any further clarification, as opposed to “Zugang” (arrival), the personal card would then be removed from the file, and placed in a separate file.

 

Judge Zembaty: No note was made that death was due to shooting?

 

Witness: Pemper: No. There were daily “appell” record sheets, which assisted in the keeping of the prisoners numerical control, and these sheets/lists, prepared daily, showed clearly all changes. Let us say, yesterday’s level was 9,500, today’s 9,550, the list or “appell” sheet, would be changed to 60 arrivals and 10 died of various causes.

 

Judge Zembaty: The witness mentioned that prisoners were killed by shooting, hanging, savaging by dogs. Were there in addition other methods of killing being used?

 

Witness: Pemper: The incidents of savaging by dogs, were in general rare. Hanging on the other hand, was a permissible way of killing in a concentration camp. In a forced labour camp it was applied when the death was intended to be used as a deterrent to others, as in the case of Hauberstock and Krautwirt.

 

I recollect the hanging of two prisoners for attempted escape. Various SS dignitaries from Krakow were invited, one of whom even read out a statement or announcement, to the effect, that they are being hung in order to deter others from attempting similar acts.

 

Judge Zembaty: Did other methods of killing exist, in addition to those mentioned so far?

 

Witness: Pemper: There were cases, where a prisoner could not take the beatings, following the application of 100 hits or more, was unfit for work, he would then be beaten further, and then finished. This happened in the action at the beginning of August.

 

Judge Zembaty: In what manner would such a prisoner be finished?

 

Witness: Pemper: By shooting.

 

Judge Zembaty: With regard to the matter of torture, the witness mentioned yesterday, that hanging by the arms was practised, you have mentioned the incident involving a person called Frenkel. How long did this take?

 

A dog (possibly Ralf) owned by Goeth at Plaszow

Witness: Pemper: Several hours

 

Judge Zembaty: Has the accused been present throughout that time?

 

Witness: Pemper: When I entered the office, they were waiting for me, as I had to be the interpreter during the interrogation, it took three hours.

 

Judge Zembaty: Without interruption?

 

Witness: Pemper: The stool was manipulated by hand, enabling the prisoner to regain consciousness, and induce him to provide information, every half an hour the stool was produced for this purpose.

 

Judge Zembaty: Did any one faint?

 

Witness: Pemper: Yes, they had water poured over them, terrible beatings took place. The accused conducted and controlled the interrogation. By the time I saw Frenkel I did not recognise him.

 

Judge Zembaty: What were the conditions in the camp in the winter, were the barracks the prisoners were sleeping in heated?

 

Witness: Pemper: In this respect there existed considerable limitations, but this became irrelevant as the overcrowding of the prisoners was so great, that the prisoners kept themselves warm, by their own heat.

 

Judge Zembaty: What about the nourishment of prisoners?

 

Witness: Pemper: The nourishment was very poor

 

Judge Zembaty: Did a possibility exist of food reaching the camp from outside of the camp?

 

Witness: Pemper: The answer is no, and that applies throughout the time. There were attempts, and at a later stage partially some success has been achieved, in the form of additional bread allocation. There existed also a very important channel of help, in the form of medicines from Jewish sources – specific medicines from the Ghetto until its destruction.

 

Chairman: Would you please summon witness Henryk Mandel

 


Witness – Henryk Mandel:

 

 In the first half of January 1943 I have been selected and sent from the Ghetto in Krakow into the camp in Plaszow. In the camp at that time, were approximately 2,000 persons, the commander was Muller.

 

Beginning of February, the accused arrived in Plaszow, the camp at time was comparatively small, a rumour spread that the new commander is from Vienna and that the conditions in the camp will improve. Within two days we were made aware what conditions we can expect.

 

The accused assembled all foremen, works directors and made a speech, he declared that he is taking over command of the camp in Plaszow and demands from all strict obedience in the execution of orders, and as evidence that he is not joking, all were ordered to be flogged with a certain number of strokes. Several days later, public hanging of two women was organised.

 

Chairman: Has the witness seen this?

 

Witness Henryk Mandel: Certainly, this took place beginning of March 1943, and with this, we have learned what treatment we can expect from this Viennese new commander.

 

Chairman: What was the reason for the hanging of these two women?

 

Jews from the Krakow ghetto, who have been rounded-up for deportation

Witness Henryk Mandel: They went into the Ghetto without permission, the accused learned this, had them brought to him from the Ghetto, and hung immediately.

 

Chairman: In that case they were hanged on orders of the accused?

 

Witness Henryk Mandel: The accused was there, and gave the order to hang them. On the 13th of March more Jews were brought from the Ghetto in Krakow into the camp and I will describe the methods that were used to conduct a search of them.

 

The accused was inside the barrack which housed the doctors, I overheard as he spoke to his men, “In this barrack we must conduct a very strict search, as here are Jewish doctors, who were very rich, and most probably they have brought this wealth with them from the Ghetto.”

 

Watches and various and other small items were being surrendered then, with the accused looking on. A few days later the “painting” took place, that is where we were painted with yellow and red stripes. Red stripes, those working in the camp, yellow stripes all those working outside of the camp. Whilst this painting was taking place a general “Appell” was called, we were prepared for something new.

 

And we were not disappointed; the accused walked with other SS officers along the lines and picked out various prisoners. After this he ordered tables to be brought out, and there and then flogging was ordered, across the bare buttocks, on the selected persons, men, women, with varying numbers of strokes. Goeth then announced to all, that he is not joking, we must all work as he orders, and that the work performed so far, was inadequate.

 

Chairman: In that case, this was a form of penalty?

 

Witness Henryk Mandel: No, this was an example to all prisoners, so that they should be aware, that he who does not work, will receive a beating.

 

Chairman: Did he assist in this himself?

 

Witness Henryk Mandel:  He did assist himself, the accused walked with a group of his men, and pointed out those who in his opinion needed more beating.

 

Chairman: How many strokes were given?

 

Witness Henryk Mandel: Between 25-50, the group for flogging consisted of several hundred persons. Several tables were used, and several persons did the beating.

 

Chairman: What was used for this beating?

 

Witness Henryk Mandel: Riding whips

 

Chairman: Were these beatings counted, was the prisoner required to keep the count or were these people beaten without an accurate count and did the witness see this?

 

Witness Henryk Mandel: I have seen all of this, as it was an “Appell”

 

Chairman: When was this?

 

Witness : In March or possibly beginning of April, going into town to work, these prisoners worked from 7am to 6pm. One day, upon returning in the evening, we were assembled again for work, and made to work until 12 at night, and from that day on, the afternoon shift continued until 12 at night.

 

We were told that the road must be finished with the utmost speed. One day I have been given permission for a day off work. I did not want to stay in the barrack, so I hid in a barrack of a friend and there, through a window I heard a shout and saw as the accused shot a young boy who was laying stones in the road construction. After shooting him, he moved the body about with his boot, to satisfy himself that he was dead.

 

Women at forced labor in Plaszow

Prosecutor Siewierski: For what reason was this boy shot by the accused?

 

Witness: This I cannot say, all I have seen is that the boy was bending, as if in a working position.

 

Chairman: The witness has seen this?

 

Witness: That is so.

 

Chairman: From what distance?

 

Witness: 25 meters

 

Prosecutor Siewierski:  Was the boy working at the time?

 

Witness: This I do not know. At another time one or two persons escaped from the camp.

 

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/trials/goeth3.html

 

The Holocaust Education and Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

SS station master of death!

Franz Nowak

SS Station Master of Death


To the Competent Court of Justice, Vienna

Re: Request for Legal Assistance

 

The main hearing in the criminal proceedings against the Accused Adolf Eichmann is at present taking place in this Court.  In the context of this main hearing, I request you to extend legal assistance to this Court by the examination on oath of the following witness:

 

SS Hauptsturmbannfuhrer Nowak, Remand Installation, Vienna 

  • First Name and Surname: Franz Nowak  

  • Date of Birth: 10 January 1913 

  • Place of Birth: Wolfsberg, Carinthia

  • Religion: Roman Catholic

  • Marital Status: Married

  • Occupation: Printing shop employee

  • Residence: Lang- Enzersdorf near Vienna, An den Muehlen 18, currently remanded for investigation at the Vienna District Court for Criminal Matters 

Relationship to the Accused or other persons involved in the examination: Not related. Section 153 of the Code of Criminal Procedure was explained to him.

 

 

Selected Extracts of Statement by Franz Nowak on the 15 June 1961

 

I remember transports of Jews taking place from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz. However, I no longer remember when this was and which authority issued the instructions for it. However, I assume that Section IVB4 received the relevant instructions from an authority to it.

 

 I did not know that the persons in these transports were to be liquidated in Auschwitz. The transports were ordered in order to employ Jews for labour or to evacuate them.

 

Deportation of Bialystok Children from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz (click text to enlarge)

I do not know whether Eichmann was able to issue orders independently, or whether he received orders for the transports. I do know that Eichmann was sent for by his superior almost every day. The reason why I know this is that often he was looked for and then it was said that he was with the Group Leader or the Department Chief.

 

Section IVB4 of the Head Office for Reich Security (RSHA) was responsible for the evacuation of Jews, Poles, Gypsies and Slovenes, and also had to provide transport when RSHA offices had to be transferred (particularly after air raids). The head of section IVB4 was Eichmann, who was in charge of several specialised employees. The official in charge of transport matters in Section IVB4 was the former SS Sturmbannfuhrer Rolf Guenther, to whom I was directly subordinate as an assistant Specialist Officer.     

 

As an assistant Specialist Officer, I had to draw up the timetables for the specific train journeys and to organise the manner of reporting. For this purpose, I was provided by Guenther with the stations of departure and destination and the number of persons, and I then had to prepare the requisite documents for the Reichsbahn about the means of transport.

 

Guenther or Eichmann would then sign these documents. After the timetables were submitted for each specific train journey, I then had to prepare the reports to the Departments concerned.

 

As far as I know the RSHA was divided into departments, which were in turn divided into groups, and then the groups were split into sections. All I know is that Eichmann was the Section Head of Section 4 of Group B in Department IV (IVB4). I do not know anything about Eichmann heading a group or department in the RSHA.

 

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/trials/franknowak.html

 

   The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

 

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010