Saturday, June 02, 2007

Meet Karl Frenzel (1)

I. Introduction

Our old friend denierbud, of "One-third of the Holocaust" fame, seems to have a particular sympathy for SS-Oberscharführer Karl Frenzel, one of the members of the SS-staff of Sobibor extermination camp.



In clip # 13 of said video, which I commented in this article, Bud made us laugh with his imbecile whining about Frenzel having been sentenced to life in prison "based on evidence where the space they give for burying 80,000 bodies are two pits not much bigger than the henhouse". His latest production – an attempt to discredit Sobibor survivor and eyewitness Thomas Toivi Blatt on account of supposed inconsistencies in accounts provided by Blatt in a 1977 newspapers story and in interviews posted on YouTube, which may be the subject of a future article – Bud dedicates to Karl Frenzel in the following touching terms:

This project is dedicated to Karl Frenzel (sentenced to life in prison in part due to Blatt's testimony against him) to Frenzel's 5 children who had their dad taken away to prison, and to his wife, who died from complications from being raped by a Soviet soldier.


In the commentary at the end of this feature, Bud unsurprisingly claims that Sobibor was a mere delousing camp, whose former staff members didn’t tell the "truth" out of fear that some false eyewitness might blame them for crimes they had not committed, and that gullible and stupid German criminal justice authorities might uncritically swallow such false eyewitness’s claims as they supposedly did in poor Frenzel’s case:

The Germans who worked in delousing camps framed as death camps, like Sobibor and Treblinka; or who worked in labor camps framed as death camps like Auschwitz. They were vulnerable to prosecution. Any German who worked in these camps, could have a Thomas Blatt figure come along and say "I saw you beat my father!" on the witness stand.

Thomas Blatt's testimony, for instance, was largely responsible for putting Karl Frenzel in jail for his whole life.


So, was that what happened at the trial against former members of the Sobibor staff before the Hagen District Court, which ended on 20.12.1966 with a judgment according to which five of the defendants were acquitted, four were sentenced to prison terms between 3 and 8 years and Karl August Wilhelm Frenzel was given a life sentence for murder? Did trusting and incompetent German public prosecutors and even more trusting and incompetent German judges and jurors fall for wholly fictional horror tales about mass extermination at what had actually been an innocuous delousing camp, and did these dumb fucks sentence four innocent people to prison terms and another innocent man to lifetime imprisonment, without their defense attorneys trying or being able to do anything about such fathomless injustice? Was Frenzel just a loving husband and father who had done his honorable duty during the war and who, on top of what the savage victors had done to his family (his wife "died from complications from being raped by a Soviet soldier", according to denierbud) was framed for crimes he did not commit and torn away from his poor children for the rest of his life?

The best way to assess the merit of Bud’s claims and insinuations is to look at what is stated in the Hagen District Court’s judgment at the above-mentioned trial about how the court reached its findings of fact regarding mass murder at Sobibor extermination camp and Karl Frenzel’s participation therein. I have obtained the text of this judgment (LG Hagen vom 20.12.1966, 11 Ks 1/64) via the University of Amsterdam’s Justiz und NS-Verbrechen website. Unfortunately I am not allowed to transcribe the copy I received on the internet, as this would be in violation of the editor’s copyright. However, I shall in the following provide translations of such parts of the judgment that I consider important to the understanding of how the court approached its task of finding the relevant facts about Sobibor extermination camp and the criminal deeds of Karl Frenzel.

II. The Hagen Court’s Judgment at the Sobibor Trial

II.1 Findings of Fact regarding Sobibor Extermination Camp

Following the names of the defendants and the statement of the sentences issued against each of them, the court’s findings of fact start with a description of the background of the crimes committed at Sobibor, i.e. the National Socialist persecution of the Jews in general and the mass killing operation known as Aktion Reinhard (hereinafter AR – the name of the operation is also spelled "Reinhardt" in certain documents, but the Hagen court only used the "Reinhard" spelling) in particular. Key documents related to this operation that are quoted in the judgment include the following:

• Goebbels’ diary entry of 27 March 1942, which is also referred to in Prof. Browning’s expert opinion submitted at the Irving-Lipstadt trial;

• A letter by SS-Brigadeführer August Frank of the SS Economics Admistration Main Office (Wirtschaftsverwaltungshauptamt) dated 26.9.1942, containing detailed instructions on how to handle the personal effects taken away from the deportees to the AR camps, including gold teeth and eyeglasses;

• State Secretary Ganzenmüller’s letter of 28 July 1942 to SS-Obergruppenführer Wolff of Himmler’s personal staff and Wolff’s reply to Ganzenmüller dated 13 August 1942, both of which can be accessed in the original and official English translation via this page;

• A letter dated 23 June 1942 by the head of the "Führer’s Chancellory", SS-Oberführer Viktor Brack, to Heinrich Himmler, which is also mentioned in this article and discussed in this one (item 1.6);

• The secrecy undertaking of AR participants that is also transcribed and translated here.

There follows, on the next 9 pages of the judgment, what was probably the first detailed tabulation of the deportations to Sobibor, mainly from the Nazi Generalgouvernement in Poland but also from other countries. This tabulation is based on an expert opinion by Dr. Wolfgang Scheffler, a renowned German historian acting as a court expert, and on other evidence, namely the depositions of defendants and eyewitnesses during the trial proceedings, that the court checked this expert opinion against. Data about the transports include place of origin (in the case of transports from the Generalgouvernement the individual cities and towns are mentioned), the date of deportation and the number of deportees in each transport. Thus, for instance, there were 34,313 deportees from the Netherlands between 5/6 March and the end of April 1943, of whom only 19 survivors were established by the Red Cross after the war. How accurate the results of Dr. Scheffler’s research were can be seen by the fact that he counted 102,478 arrivals at Sobibor by the end of 1942, a figure that is almost matched by the 101,370 arrivals at Treblinka mentioned in SS-Sturmbannführer Höfle’s report to SS-Obersturmbannführer Heim of 11 January 1943. Regarding the entire period of deportations to Sobibor extermination camp, from 2 April 1942 until the beginning of October 1943, the court concluded on the following (my translation):

Under the strictest standards to be applied in favor of the defendants it was established that on hand of documentary material and witness depositions from the main proceedings the death of at least 150,000 Jewish people in Sobibor is known.


The following section of the judgment, roughly 20 pages long, is dedicated to setting down the court’s findings of fact regarding the layout and features of the camp, the killing methods (shooting at the "Lazarett", i.e. the "hospital", of those too weak to walk to the gas chambers, otherwise gassing with exhaust from a gasoline engine, as also mentioned in this article) and the body disposal methods (burial during the first months of operation, thereafter incineration, as also mentioned in this article and in this one) as well as the facilities made and used for these tasks during the various phases of the camp’s operation, the processing of the transports, the German and Ukrainian camp staff, the permanent inmates who had to assist in the murder of the deportees and the disposal of their bodies, Himmler’s plans in mid-1943 to build processing facilities for booty ammunition at Sobibor, the inmates’ revolt on 14 October 1943 and, finally, the dismantling of the camp, the killing of the last remaining inmates and the end of Aktion Reinhard. At the start of this section there is a document that is meant as an orientation aid and indeed proves very useful in guiding the reader through the descriptions of the camp, its procedures and main events. This sketch, an English-annotated version of which can be found here, was drawn from memory by the imprisoned former staff member Bauer, who had been sentenced in 1950 for his crimes at Sobibor and testified as a witness at this trial. It is the same sketch from which our friend denierbud amusingly undertook to derive the size of the mass graves, in his video clip commented here. The Hagen court’s findings in this respect were the following (my translation):

From the outer cell doors of the gas chamber building a light railway led to huge pits for taking in the corpses, which were gradually dug in the camp’s first extermination phase of about half a year, each about 50-60 meters long, 10-15 meters wide and about 5-7 meters deep, the side walls being sloped due to the sandy ground.


These findings, based on eyewitness descriptions, are roughly matched by the results of recent archaeological investigations mentioned in this article in what concerns the depth of the graves, which Prof. Kola’s team established as being ca. 4.6 meters. The largest of the seven mass graves uncovered by Kola is a little longer (ca. 64 m) and somewhat wider (ca. 22.9 m) than the maximum length and width assumed by the Hagen court for all graves, whereas the other six graves have the same width of ca. 22.9 meters but are only 18.3 meters long.

The main part of the ca. 170 pages of the judgment, which follows this section and a listing of previous trials against members of the AR camps’ staff, is dedicated to the findings of fact about the criminal actions of each individual defendant. This section is introduced by a general statement about the evidence that the court’s findings of fact in this judgment are based on and how the court approached its task of assessing the evidence. In view of its importance for the subject matter of the present article, this statement will be translated in full hereafter:

These and the following findings of fact in this judgment are based on the defense of the ten defendants remaining in this part of the procedure during the main proceedings, on the statements of the defendant Fuc., which he made in the joint main proceedings until the separation of his procedure, on the statements before the jury court of the former co-defendant Bol., whose life ended by suicide during the main proceedings, on the depositions of the witnesses interrogated during the main proceedings, insofar as they did not remain un-sworn according to article 61 no. 3 of the Criminal Procedure Code, on the read-out depositions of the witnesses interrogated outside the main proceedings, on the read-out documents and writs, (insofar as the originals were not read out, the accuracy of typescripts, photocopies and translations was assured through expertise or official certification, or it was of common knowledge and not disputed by any of the trial’s participants), on the inspection of the objects individually listed in the protocol and on the expert’s opinions provided in the main proceedings.

In the very critical assessment of the witness testimonies the following, as shall be pointed out here, had to be especially observed: in taking evidence and assessing the witness testimonies considerable difficulties resulted especially from the fact that the events of which the defendants were accused lie back more than 22 years and most witnesses’ capacity for remembering was affected thereby. The recollection of some witnesses may have shifted or become blurred during these years, and for the criminal events proper no neutral observers were available.

There were either Jewish witnesses, who had been victims of and endured the terrible sufferings of the time in the camp, or German witnesses, who themselves were in some way involved in killing machinery of "Action Reinhard". Some of the latter have already been convicted, others are still subject to criminal or investigation procedures. While they hardly made use of the right to refuse testimony to which they sometimes were entitled, many of them showed the effort to reluctantly report only the necessary minimum about occurrences that incriminated them as well. Furthermore they obviously suppressed recollections unpleasant to them from their memory. It is also quite possible that the witnesses’ reservation – like that of the defendants in the main proceedings regarding the incrimination of co-defendants – was due to their fearing that the defendants on their part might incriminate them with unpleasant and culpable things if they "opened up". At concerns the Jewish witnesses, it must be noted that the unimaginable suffering that was inflicted on them in the camp, the constant mortal fear and the all-dominating urge to survive made it difficult for them in some cases to correctly record at all the camp staff’s deeds. Almost all Jewish witnesses lost relatives in the Sobibor camp and only escaped death by chance themselves. After the camp revolt and escape, many of them vegetated for another eight months under most unworthy conditions in sometimes harrowing hideouts. Their goal and ambition was primarily to survive, and only secondarily if at all to accurately remember the experiences in the camp. Furthermore it is difficult anyway to accurately remember details out of a multitude of painful and horrible events over almost a quarter of a century.

Furthermore most of the witnesses living in Israel and those witnesses who temporarily lived in Israel at the time meet there occasionally (for instance on the anniversary of the revolt, 14 October) and exchange memories. Thus it is possible that they later mix up what they experienced themselves with what they heard. In the case of some Jewish witnesses it also had to be taken into account that due to their close personal involvement with the criminal events there could not be excluded the perhaps unconscious temptation to emotionally hold all members of the camp staff generally responsible "as murderers" for the suffering that had been inflicted on them, without being able to differentiate according to the measure of individual participation and guilt.

Finally it had to be taken into account that many of the Jewish witnesses provided affidavits in compensation procedures of their own or of others, and that thereby some witnesses may in some cases have committed to false claims in the correction of which they had no interest.

The jury court took all these circumstances into account in assessing the evidence and therefore saw itself forced to an especially careful evaluation of the evidence material.


The above shows how far away this highly critical jury court was from the gullible body of fools that denierbud apparently wants his readers to believe in, and how unlikely it is, given the court’s approach to the evidence, that any defendant could have been successfully framed by false witnesses. In the following parts of this article we will find not only further evidence of the court’s critical approach, but also mentions of exhaustive cross-examination of the witnesses and of how defense attorneys went out of their way to discredit eyewitnesses incriminating their clients. We will also see that the court’s findings of fact regarding the life and crimes of Karl Frenzel were based not only on the testimonies of numerous eyewitnesses, but also on how Frenzel was described by his fellow defendants and, last but not least, on the personal impression that the court gained of the defendant during the trial.


Click here for the next part.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Feed him to the sharks.