Friday, January 15, 2010

The dumbest Holocaust denial icon: the Auschwitz swimming pool

Author: Sergey Romanov
I mean, Jon Harrison dealt with it, Pressac dealt with it, van Pelt dealt with it:
Given the dichotomy between the very complex nature and history of Auschwitz and the habit of many to consider the camp only as a "top-secret mass extermination center," many people, including bona-fide historians, survivors, and not so bona-fide holocaust deniers, often commit the fallacy of composition: they reason from the properties of the part of Auschwitz that was engaged with mass extermination to the properties of Auschwitz as a whole. A favourite example of the negationists is the so-called swimming pool in Auschwitz I. They argue that the presence of a swimming pool, with three diving boards, shows that the camp was really a rather benign place, and therefore could not have been a center of extermination. They ignore that the swimming pool was built as a water reservoir for the purpose of firefighting (there were no hydrants in the camp), that the diving boards were added later, and that the pool was only accessible to SS men and certain privileged Aryan prisoners employed as inmate-funcionaries in the camp. The presence of the swimming pool does not say anything about the conditions for Jewish inmates in Auschwitz, and does not challenge the existence of an extermination program with its proper facilities in Auschwitz II.
Yet it keeps returning, and returning, and returning, and returning, like a zombie.

The "argument" is so mind-bogglingly illogical that one is surprised that even denial cultists would want to repeat it, yet they keep doing it till it's not longer funny.

No historian or court ever claimed that every single inmate of Auschwitz had to perish - or had to perish immediately. The presence of relatively privileged groups of prisoners (like Kapos, "Aryan" or Jewish) is acknowledged by everyone. The presence of amenities (like brothel) for certain privileged prisoners is hardly a secret.

So why the persistent mentions of the structure, the existence of which contradicts nothing even if one denies its primary use as a water reservoir (and which is not even situated in the extermination section, i.e. Birkenau, though even if it were otherwise, it would still not be an issue)?

How utterly braindead, ignorant or devious one must be to even think about using the Auschwitz swimming pool as a PR trick in the name of "revisionism"?

34 comments:

The Black Rabbit of Inlé said...

So Auschwitz had a swimming pool then.

That's nice. The Jews could have a dip after there'd finished playing football on the pitch next to Krema III and before they caught a show in the Auschwitz theatre.

The Black Rabbit of Inlé said...

What proof is there that:

"the swimming pool was built as a water reservoir for the purpose of firefighting ... that the diving boards were added later"

Sergey Romanov said...

"So Auschwitz had a swimming pool then.

That's nice. The Jews could have a dip after there'd finished playing football on the pitch next to Krema III and before they caught a show in the Auschwitz theatre."

A nice example of neo-Nazi humor mixed with ignorant demagoguery, as well as irony, since this comment is directly refuted by the very article it is posted under. Oh, and by the way, the pool is in Auschwitz main camp, Krema III is in Birkenau, nitwit.

"What proof is there that:"

1. I gave the links to scholars of Auschwitz, who apparently got this information from documents and/or witnesses. Do you suggest they're lying? What's your proof of that?

2. Suppose I don't provide a document explicitly saying that this was a water reservoir converted into a swimming pool. How does that secondary point detract from the fact that the existence of a swimming pool in Auschwitz I (which was not the extermination camp proper; that was Auschwitz II-Birkenau) proves nothing either way and therefore any idiot who brings it up to "refute" the extermination should have their heads checked?

acid_claus said...

As children we were led to beleive that Auschwitz was hell on Earth. That yes it has a hospital, but they performed horiffic experiments on people. That if people didn't slave away they were shot on site.

None of us would have ever expected a swimming pool. The fact that people are going out of their way to call it a resevoir when the eyewitness accounts of it's construction (for swimming purposes) and it's use on holidays and weekends is not a secret.

There are people who are lying about it being a swimming pool. It even had a diving board. Does this prove anything of itself? Not at all. But why are people lying that it wasn't a swimming pool?

We've been told the theatre was for pretending to visitors that nothing suspicious was going on. Okay. But there are many surviving programs. There was a brothel. They were allowed to play sports. Of course, some lie and say that the Jews were not allowed to. But the surviving accounts that come from participants are Jewish!

If this is insignificant and meaningless than STOP LYING ABOUT IT!!! Because lies breed suspicious. If this was disclosed from the start, if the lamp shade and soap thing was debunked long before it was in the 80s, if the death toll on the plaque didn't drop from 4 million to 1.5 million (it's officially at 1 million inmates now and not all were exterminated) then we wouldn't have this problem.

People are not holocaust deniers for pointing out these facts. People who brush them off or lie about it are the problem. People who don't lower the death toll and say "we always knew these things" are the problem. Then why did you lie to us?

I am sick of the lies. I watched a holocaust survivor tell her story and I cried. I cried my eyes out. I felt responsible. For years I always treated Jewish people to a higher standard.

Now I feel disgusted because you people lied to me and you still tell lies and you call us deniers even when we don't deny it. Stop LYING and stop INSULTING us! We want to know the truth and you are treating us like idiots or worse. I was born in the 80s and had nothing to do with this, but I do notice you are lying up a liar's storm and I am disgusted.

You played us the fool, but when the house of cards falls, what will you do? Auschwitz sounds like a paradise compared to the battlefield.

Kevin Klippstein said...

"They argue that the presence of a swimming pool, with three diving boards, shows that the camp was really a rather benign place, and therefore could not have been a center of extermination."

It certainly starts to shift the burden of proof to those who insist this was a "death camp"

Matthew Steffen said...

One need only look at the photgraphs of piled up Jewish bodies to disregard even a Ferris Wheel if they found one.

-Matt
New Jersey Marketing

inhistorics said...

Can you make a video addressing the existence of a football pitch right next to a gas chamber?

This video points out some of the testimonies from Spielbergs online archive.

inhistorics said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtlPlZGvgY0

Forgot to include the link.

Ms eldee said...

Well it looked like a swimming pool and I thought that this teenager was a brave girl to jump in and swim across it. My god you cannot even in your worst nightmare imagine what it was like for them having to live through Auschwitz. They talk about post traumatic stress, we dont even know the meaning of the word.

David N. Brown said...

Something I haven't seen even the deniers' critics mention is that the design of the "pool" is terrible. In particular, the sloping sides are an entirely dangerous feature, as it would be difficult to get out without swimming to the far end.

Heraclitus said...

The swimming pool argument is a complete red herring. Auschwitz was a huge concentration camp: Auschwitz 1 (originally for political prisoners), and that's where the pool was...then there was Auschwitz-Birkenau, designed and operated as an extermination site, with enough crematories to incinerate the total Birkenau population monthly (so forget typhus as an argument)..then there was Auschwitz 3, a labor camp. Even if some privileged Jews were allowed to use the pool, what does that prove? SS testified to the gas chambers. The Auschwitz commander, Rudolf Hoss,convicted of war crimes, not only testified to the deaths under oath, but confessed and asked for some eventual forgiveness about a week before his execution. Nazis on trial always argued (1) they were following orders, or (2) they acted under duress; they did not deny the murders. Then there is the endless Sonderkommando testimonies as to degree of extermination...The swimming pool argument has essentially zero value.

Jacob said...

acid_claus: "If this is insignificant and meaningless than STOP LYING ABOUT IT!!!"
No historian or court ever claimed that every single inmate of Auschwitz had to perish - or had to perish immediately. The presence of relatively privileged groups of prisoners (like Kapos, "Aryan" or Jewish) is acknowledged by everyone. The presence of amenities (like brothel) for certain privileged prisoners is hardly a secret.

So why the persistent mentions of the structure, the existence of which contradicts nothing even if one denies its primary use as a water reservoir (and which is not even situated in the extermination section, i.e. Birkenau, though even if it were otherwise, it would still not be an issue)?
He says that yet you claim lies...how smart r u?

Roberto Muehlenkamp said...

I accidentally deleted this comment by "Nash Blog", so I'll post it after the e-mail I received with this comment:


"All that is required to resolve this is to watch many of the Jewish prisoner testimonials that were suppressed because they did not fit the narrative that the Germans were 'evil monsters'. If the Jewish survivors say life was good in Auschwitz with grand pianos, theaters, their own money, a market, and friendly soccer games with the guards, is there any reason I should not believe them especially when corroborated by the facts on the ground, including the sign at the entrance of Auschwitz that read 'work sets you free' indicating a WORK camp for the German war effort not a death camp. That does not mean lots of people including Poles, Gypsies, and Jews did not die there. The question is how and whether life was really miserable under the German hand or they were treated in a civilized manner. The Germans were certainly not treated well AFTER the war with more Germans being killed or starved AFTER the war than during it. So, in war, it is sad thing. People kill and are killed. But, I see no proof that the Germans were any worse than the Bolshevist murderers who eliminated up to 100 million ethnic Russians then turned on the Germans once THEY one the war with OUR help."

Roberto Muehlenkamp said...

Some comments on this post:

"All that is required to resolve this is to watch many of the Jewish prisoner testimonials that were suppressed because they did not fit the narrative that the Germans were 'evil monsters'. If the Jewish survivors say life was good in Auschwitz with grand pianos, theaters, their own money, a market, and friendly soccer games with the guards, is there any reason I should not believe them especially when corroborated by the facts on the ground, including the sign at the entrance of Auschwitz that read 'work sets you free' indicating a WORK camp for the German war effort not a death camp."

Apparently NB doesn't know that Auschwitz started out as a plain concentration camp and all concentration camps had this cynical remark "work sets you free" at the entrance. Extermination activities at Auschwitz were only added in late 1941 (for certain categories of Soviet POWs) and early 1942 (for Jews), and mostly carried out in a segregated sector of the camp complex called Birkenau, though the concentration camp had been in place since 1940. Normal concentration camp functions continued while extermination activities were going on.

As to what life was like among those taken in and registered as prisoners of the concentration camp (the overwhelming majority of those earmarked for extermination, i.e. Jewish deportees considered unable to work, never became concentration camp prisoners in the first place), there were certain political or criminal prisoners, particularly Germans and Austrians, who didn't have too bad a time at Auschwitz. However, that didn't apply to the overwhelming majority of prisoners, who were treated like garbage. I don't know of any Jewish survivors who said that life was good in Auschwitz, which in NB's book must mean that the testimonies of such survivors were "suppressed". NB is invited to tell who is supposed to have "suppressed" such testimonies, and how he learned about such testimonies in the first place if they were "suppressed".

"That does not mean lots of people including Poles, Gypsies, and Jews did not die there. The question is how and whether life was really miserable under the German hand or they were treated in a civilized manner. The Germans were certainly not treated well AFTER the war with more Germans being killed or starved AFTER the war than during it."

I know that Germans were brutally expelled from Eastern Europe and sometimes put into concentration camps that were as bad as Auschwitz was for the average prisoner, but I'd like to see some evidence supporting NB's claim that more Germans were killed after the war and during it. From what I've seen in sources detailing German casualties during or as a consequence of WWII, like those presented on the page German casualties in World War II, the overwhelming majority of German deaths due to World War II occurred during the war, though civilian casualties during expulsions from Eastern Europe may have been higher than civilian casualties during the war.

"So, in war, it is sad thing. People kill and are killed. But, I see no proof that the Germans were any worse than the Bolshevist murderers who eliminated up to 100 million ethnic Russians then turned on the Germans once THEY one the war with OUR help."

Up to 100 million, and all of the "ethnic Russians"? I'd say that's a wildly fantastic claim with no evidence support whatsoever. Historiography has arrived at different results, namely established that Stalin's regime murdered fewer people than Hitler's. See the blog Hitler vs. Stalin: Who Was Worse?

Roberto Muehlenkamp said...

PS:
The poster's handle is "Nash Blogs", not "Nash Blog" as I had written before. The poster's profile and blogs can be accessed here.

hmp49 said...

I visited Auschwitz with my father, a survivor who was a "guest" of the Nazis at Auschwitz.

When we got there, my father looked around and said "this is not Auschwitz." The reason is that the parking lot and museum is on the grounds of Auschwitz I, which was originally a Polish cavalry barracks. The Nazis and some political prisoners were the only ones who were on the grounds of Auschwitz I. Jews were kept in Auschwitz II.

The building were made of brick, with glass windows. It is relatively tiny, you can walk from one end to the other in less than 5 minutes.

This is where the "swimming pool" (or whatever purpose it actually served) was located (you can see the brick buildings in the background of some pictures of the "pool")

Later that day, we found a nice young Polish guide, who drove us the mile or two to Auschwitz II, which is where the railroad tracks and sign that says "Arbeit MAcht Frei" is located. We walked up to the tower, and looked at plaques with photos of what the camp looked like during the war. The were over 10,000 wooden huts where the Jews were kept.

When we were there in 1989, only 6 remained, and only one was still open (the Poles had taken all the wood from the huts to reuse as lumber). Inside, there were still the wooden shelves where prisoners slept stacked over each other.

My father said, "THIS is Auschwitz"

Roof king said...

I think I agree with you,as myself I am definitely NOT a Holocaust denier,but in fairness why 4million,then 1-5 million,now 1 million,all these changes are what give the Holocaust deniers there fuel,and why all this no swimming pool,then ok there was,but it wasn't used and then it's a not really a pool,all this doesn't add up,but I still hold to my belief there WAS a Holocaust,I have visited Auschwitz myself and you only showed the expected things.

Sergey Romanov said...

> all these changes are what give the Holocaust deniers there fuel,

True, but on the other hand if a person is so intellectually challenged as to take a somewhat messy numbers history as a sign that it all must be a lie, what can one do?

> and why all this no swimming pool,then ok there was,but it wasn't used and then it's a not really a pool,all this doesn't add up

It wasn't built as a swimming pool, was adapted as a swimming pool for select detainees, does not contradict extermination in any way. What exactly does not add up?

Marius Hofstad said...

Hi
Am an historian from Norway, that fight holocaust and historical denial online. Lately i have heard one argument that is new for me. Some deniers are mentioning a 45 000 book library at Auschwitz, where prisoners could borrow books. I assume this to be in the same fashion as other, similar arguments, like the swimming pool or soccer field, etc, but i cannot really find any reference to this in any of the books i own on the subject. No google search gives me anything other than deniers websites. Anyone know what this is about or where this argument originates from? Or is it just another denier fantasy?

Harry Pierson said...

+Marius Hofstad

Please read my comment above about Auschwitz I vs Auschwitz II (Birkenau)

This is another denier fantasy. It's possible there was a library at Auschwitz I (built as barracks for the Polish Cavalry long before WWII) but that has nothing to do the Holocaust.

Whatever conveniences may have been built for the officers of the Polish Cavalry before WWII have nothing to do with the treatment of Jews at Auschwitz

Sergey Romanov said...

Mr. Hofstad is aware of the difference. He only asks if the claim is true at all.

hmp49 said...

"Some deniers are mentioning a 45 000 book library at Auschwitz, where prisoners could borrow books"

My father was in Auschwitz. There was no lending library.

Clear enough?

Perhaps if a denier claims there was a day spa and casino in Auschwitz, we can ask for references for that too.

Marius Hofstad said...

Yes! As mr Romanov said, i am very aware of the difference. My reason for asking was because i often replies on denier comments on different websites and youtube videos that promote denial. My motives is always to debunk them. I am an historian, that have studied holocaust as a part of my master degree. My method when it comes to fighting historical denial, of any sort, is to look on the different argument presented by these people, and then tell them where this argument originates from or what regular historical resource have to say about this. I must admit, again that i have never heard the library argument, presented by an denier in one of my latest confrontation, so i wanted to look into this because the denier in question could not give any answers to where his argument originated from. I think his answer was in the line of "look it up yourself".

My first thought was that it probably was some sort of library, but that it was for the perpetrators, and not for the prisoners. So, my next thought was that if this library was mentioned in any regular history book on the camp, it might clear up or falsify his argument.

That was my motive for asking.

Nicholas Terry said...

Non-denier references to the library in the Auschwitz main camp are fairly sparse, but it seems that this was located in Block 24 alongside rooms for prisoner functionaries. Upstairs, in Block 24a, was the much better known camp brothel, which opened in late 1943. An overview on the Auschwitz brothel can be found in an essay by Robert Sommer from an edited collection; the information is repeated in his book Das KZ-Bordell
http://robert-sommer.com/downloads/Sommer_Haeftlingsbordelle_Auschwitz.pdf

Denier references also mention the camp museum being located in Block 24 - this traces back to John Ball's Air Photo Evidence, which sourced this from 'data given to author' in 1993 by Piotr Setkiewicz. Franciszek Piper has a page on the camp museum, founded in 1941, in his Prisoner Labour/Arbeitseinsatz book.

Block 24 was also where the Auschwitz main camp orchestra rehearsed in 1941, according to Hermann Langbein: https://archive.org/stream/HermannLangbeinPeopleInAuschwitz/Hermann_Langbein_People_in_Auschwitz#page/n141/mode/2up

So this block was indeed for "leisure", although it was also apparently used to house Soviet POWs in the winter of 1941/2. And it was also for 'Prominente', privileged prisoners.

Other KZs had libraries, museums and brothels as well, along with orchestras and other 'cultural amenities'. Access to them was hardly universal as prisoners could not generally mill around a concentration camp as if it were the Stalag in The Great Escape. Privileged prisoners had more access, obviously. This hardly stopped the emaciation of ordinary prisoners from undernourishment and overwork, or the deaths of 10s of 1000s of prisoners registered in the camp.

Whether the library predated the shift to extermination or not is unclear, but it would not surprise me.

Essentially all the denier arguments about normal-seeming amenities apply to Auschwitz I, and not to Auschwitz II Birkenau - Birkenau had a separate orchestra but that is literally it.

Marius Hofstad said...

This was very clarifying. Thanks a lot!

hmp49 said...

It's misleading to talk about music for the inmates as though the Germans were providing culture for the benefit of the inmates. In some cases an orchestra might be positioned at the entrance to the camp to mislead the entering inmates as to what they would find inside, and to calm them.

In other cases, music was used to mock and abuse the inmates:

"From the time the first concentration camps were established in 1933, camp guards routinely ordered detainees to sing while marching or exercising or during punishment actions. This was done to mock, humiliate and discipline the prisoners. As Eberhard Schmidt experienced in Sachsenhausen, inmates who disobeyed the rules or who incorrectly carried them out ('In even steps! March! Sing!') gave the SS an excuse for arbitrary beatings:

Those who didn’t know the song were beaten. Those who sang too softly were beaten. Those who sang too loudly were beaten. The SS men inflicted savage beatings.

Mostly the prisoners were forced to perform Nazi group- and soldiers’ songs, as well as SS folk songs and marches. In addition, they had to sing songs of symbolic value to individual detainee groups in order to humiliate them. For example, communists and social democrats were ordered to sing labour movement songs; those who were religious were ordered to sing religious songs relating to their denomination."

When I visited Auschwitz, I saw rooms filled with confiscated suitcases, hair, and mosgt horrifying, childrens clothing. You'll excuse me if I find it hard to believe Jews were allowed to keep their instruments, other than for the amusement of the Nazis.

As for the brothels, from Sommer's book:

"Beginning with the Austrian camp at Mauthausen in 1942, the SS opened 10 brothels, the biggest of which was in Auschwitz, in modern Poland, where as many as 21 women prisoners once worked. The last opened in early 1945, the year the war ended.

The chapter is separate from the annals of the Holocaust of European Jews. JEWISH WOMEN WERE NOT RECRUITED AS PROSTITUTES, AND JEWISH MEN WERE NOT ADMITTED TO THE BROTHELS.

Sommer estimates around 200 women inmates in total were forced to work in the brothels -- initially offered the prospect of escaping the brutality of the concentration camps.

"They were promised release after half a year if they served in the brothel. But the promises were never honored," he said. "Later, the SS just selected women they felt were suitable."

"Jews were not allowed in. Neither were Soviet prisoners of war," he added. "Jewish women did not serve as sex workers."

Tens of thousands of captured soldiers, political prisoners and people branded socially undesirable by the Nazis, including Roma and homosexuals, were held in camps alongside the millions of Jews who died in the Holocaust.

"The idea behind the brothels was to raise productivity by providing forced laborers with added incentive," said Sommer. "Yet from what I found, it didn't work at all. Only a few people were actually in a physical condition to go to them."

According to Sommer, the use of prisoners to provide sex to other prisoners was purely a Nazi phenomenon in the war."

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-nazis-brothels-idUSTRE57G45X20090817

(Just in case some deranged denier wants to claim Nazis provided call girls to the Jewish inmates, to show how nice they were to the Jews)

Nicholas Terry said...

The uses of music in KZs and extermination camps were indeed quite varied. Typically the orchestra played as the workforce marched out in the morning and on returning to barracks in the evening. But orchestras did end up giving private performances for *privileged* inmates as well as the SS, just as *privileged* inmates might get access to the camp brothel - speaking generically across all camps. The prostitutes forced to work in brothels were hardly privileged and were vilely exploited, but orchestra musicians often occupied a quasi-privileged status. Musicians as well as the staff of the Auschwitz camp museum were often put to work on other tasks as 'dayjobs', but nonetheless spent at least some time working on something that wasn't lethally back-breaking. Sometimes they were given better treatment than ordinary inmates.

Langbein's chapter on music and games (covering sports as well) in People in Auschwitz captures the ambiguities and contradictions of much of this rather well. The SS parodied normal society by allowing such things, but ended up creating spaces that could *sometimes* be detourned for brief 'moments of reprieve'. Indulging in such 'luxuries' they also made it possible for a tiny minority to practice their previous professions/skills or to do things that are human. This seems to have helped some of that tiny minority survive, which stands in stark contrast to the chances of entirely ordinary inmates who were worked to death in the Auschwitz Bauhofkommando unloading supplies.

There were many other *small* groups who by virtue of their jobs or roles received better treatment: the servants used by the SS (often Jehovah's Witnesses); secretaries and clerks; etc. Women prisoners housed in the 'Stabsgebaeude' at Auschwitz had significantly better living conditions than women in Birkenau; so did the inmates sent to the Rajsko sub-camp. This didn't stop them from falling sick, dying or being killed, but it did increase their survival chances. The secretaries of the Political Department could shower daily because they came into close contact with the SS who were worried about hygiene and disease, Birkenau inmates lived in mud and filth through 1942-3 until basic amenities were constructed, and even when showers were available the ordinary inmates couldn't access them every day.

Scholars of the camps, as well as survivors in memoirs, write extensively about hierarchies and stratification within "prisoner society" in the KZs. These were very complex and changed over the lifespan of different camps. Jews were at the bottom of the racial hierarchy and some bans were absolute - such as a prohibition on Jews accessing the brothel - while some risks were experienced mainly or exclusively by Jews (from spring 1943 non-Jewish inmates were not selected for the gas chambers for unfitness/sickness). There were still some 'privileged' Jewish inmates since the demands of running the Auschwitz complex were so voracious.

Deniers ignore the complex sociology and history of the camps and essentially pretend that every inmate had access to the swimming pool, library, etc, or could wander freely around the camp to enjoy a song-and-dance knees-up. I'd love to know how the rota for the swimming pool was organised in the denier fantasy version of Auschwitz.

hmp49 said...

So by "privileged inmates" you mean Sonderkammando, Jewish doctors forced to work for the Nazis (like Miklós Nyiszli, on whose writing Son of Saul and The Grey Zone movies are based), etc?

Given the overlap between Holocaust deniers and anti-semites who believe Jews/Jewish Bankers control everything, I wonder if even using the phrase "privileged inmates" reinforces their anti-semitic beliefs, and provides them with more "proof" for their anti-semitic conspiracy theories, i.e. rich and powerful Jews were able to control their lives and others, even in the camps.

BTW, both my parents are survivors (my Dad is still alive,my Mom passed 6 years ago), and I was born in a Displaced Persons Camp in Landsberg Germany in 1949, while my parents were waiting to get permission to enter the US. It's scandalous that they had to wait 4 years, despite having family who vouched for us and agreed to be financially responsible for us (my father had a job in less than a week after arriving in the states - he and my Mom learned to speak English before they arrived in America)

Nicholas Terry said...

The use of inverted commas about 'privileged' prisoners is quite common: see for example Judging 'Privileged' Jews: Holocaust Ethics, Representation and the 'Grey Zone'
http://www.berghahnbooks.com/title/BrownJudging

The Sonderkommandos were not 'privileged', they were chosen involuntarily for a job that was meant to end in their deaths as 'bearers of secrets'. Nor would female prisoners selected involuntarily for Clauberg's medical experiments in Block 10 be considered 'privileged'.

Prisoner functionaries - kapos, block elders - were 'privileged', and some were Jews, especially towards the end of the war. Many Jewish kapos - a subset of a subset - had in fact been ghetto policemen in e.g. Lodz, Kovno and other ghettos, and assumed similar positions in KZs and sub-camps in 1944-45. Some were prosecuted as collaborators criminally or in 'honour courts' after the war; some were killed in retaliation for their actions; some had behaved more honourably.

There were also tensions between for example Slovakian Jewish block elders and Hungarian Jews deported in 1944, some of the Slovakians felt that they had suffered for 2 years already, others were brutalised, others were frustrated at trying to explain the rules of survival to the newcomers. Langbein discusses this in People in Auschwitz but it's a big theme in the testimonies of Hungarian Jewish survivors.

Deniers do sometimes try to argue that the Sonderkommandos, the Jewish councils and ghetto policemen were responsible for the murder of their own people - or wonder why Sonderkommandos were let off whereas Ukrainian collaborators like the Trawnikis were prosecuted. But deniers are never very consistent; whatever allows them to attack Jews and yields a short-term antisemitic payoff is fine with them, even if it means contradicting other arguments. The fact that other peoples in WWII happily collaborated with the Nazis to carry out direct murders without being coerced is ignored in such discussions.

But I've not seen a denier argue that female Jewish secretaries in Auschwitz ran that camp. That would be too much of a stretch for them.

Deniers will however equivocate between Jewish and non-Jewish prisoners, ignoring how 'privileges' were far more easily given by the SS to non-Jews, and pretending that Jews had equal access to the kinds of amenities we've been discussing.

You said earlier your father was in Auschwitz; do you mind indicating when he arrived, from where, and whether he was in Auschwitz, Birkenau, Monowitz or a sub-camp?

hmp49 said...

My father was born in Lask, a small shtetl near Lodz. There Germans invaded Lask almost at the very beginning of the war, September 7th, 1939. His mother and ten year old brother were murdered when Lask was liquidated in August 1942.

"In mid-August 1942 the ghetto was liquidated. About 3,500 Jews were locked up in a church outside the city and were kept for several days under inhuman conditions; the Germans then picked out some 800 craftsmen to be sent to Lodz ghetto, while the rest were sent to the extermination camp at Chelmno"

http://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Lask/Lask%201939-1945.htm

Not quite accurate. The exhaust from the diesel vans were routed into the backs of the trucks by the Einsatzgruppen, and everyone was dead by the time they arrived at Chelmno. When I was with my father at Auschwitz, we saw Nazi footage that showed the arriving bodies being stacked among railroad ties and burned.

My father (16 at the time Lask was liquidated) and my master tailor grandfather were among the "800 craftsmen" who were sent to the Lodz Ghetto. You sound well informed enough to be aware of the "Chronicles of the Lodz Ghetto," of which I have a copy. I'm sure you know about the selections made to send the inhabitants of the Lodz ghetto to Auschwitz.

It was from Lodz that my father and grandfather were later sent to Auschwitz II (Birkenau). I believe my father was in the Lodz ghetto for about two years. I'm not sure precisely how long my father was in Auschwitz, I never asked. My father tells me they heard the Allied bombers on their way to a ball bearing factory not two miles from Auschwitz. They prayed that the bombers would drop their bombs on Auschwitz, but as you know, the Allies, despite being aware of the extermination camps, never wasted any military resources trying to impair the German extermination machine.

My father and grandfather were on the death march from Auschwitz to Dachau, at the end of the war. My grandfather had something in his hand, the Germans ripped it from him, and he developed gangrene and died within 3 days of liberation. My father was semi conscious, I suspect his father was responsible for keeping my father moving and alive as long as he still lived.

My weighed 78 pounds (35.5 kilos) when he was liberated. He remembers waking up in a hospital, with a giant smiling black orderly looming above him. At that point, aged 19, he was all alone in the world.

hmp49 said...

Continued:

Some asides: My grandfather was a Polish Army officer in WWI. In recognition of his service, he was given a pass for him and his family to ride the Polish railroads for free. My father remembers a conductor throwing the family of "dirty Jews" off "his" train despite the pass.

Aside two: My father remembers coming home from a summer camp in 1939 with other Jewish scouting members, who were all excited that "now we'll get to see a real war"

Aside three: My father had a little cousin, around aged 3, who was recuperating from an operation at the time of liquidation. He was sleeping outside on a chaise, the Nazis shot him dead on the chaise. Years later, when my brother and I were little, my father used to wake up in the middle of the night, calling my mother's name, yelling "Hermina, Where are the children?"

Aside four: My father and grandfather cared for each other throughout the war. Once, during roll call, my father didn't see my grandfather. Fearing my grandfather would be punished for missing roll call, my father responded when my grandfather's name was called. But my grandfather was there, and they both responded at the same time. A guard came and hit my father in the head with his rifle butt so hard, my father still remembers what it felt like to this day. 60 years later, he had an operation for a subdural hematoma at the point of impact.

Aside five: In a quiet moment a few years ago, my father told me not a single day has gone by in seventy years that he has not thought about his murdered family. He was fortunate to have been able to find people who had pictures of his mother and father. But he's heartbroken that he's forgotten what his little brother looked like.

Aside six: Nowadays PTSD is commonly acknowledged. But for decades, no one wanted to hear anything from the survivors of the Holocaust, much less try to address their trauma and depression (and survivors guilt). Of course my father was sympathetic to the hostages of the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979, but the incongruity of hearing Ted Koppel announce every night "this is day 378 of the Iranian hostage crisis," the national obsession, compared to the indifference to the victims of the Holocaust, must have been very hard for him to bear in silence.

Nicholas Terry said...

Thank you for all of this. I can't respond to everything you've related but your father's memories seem very vivid and they 'fit' with what I know.

I actually wrote about Lask recently in something I am hoping to publish elsewhere, as well as about the Lodz ghetto and other towns nearby. Among other things, I looked at the West German investigation and trial of Gunter Fuchs (Lodz Gestapo) which became a case about the entire region; a number of survivors who emigrated to the US were interviewed for this case.

You should know that the gas vans did not run on diesel engines, the witnesses from Chelmno and elsewhere unanimously say petrol engines. A minor point but one the deniers like to fuss about.

It's extremely unlikely that gas vans travelled away from Chelmno in August 1942, and no other vans are known to have operated in this region at that time. However, I have seen testimonies from ethnic Germans from Lask that talked of exactly what you said above. The Nazis took victims by truck to Chelmno from many provincial towns, and in several localities, they locked people in churches beforehand.

It may interest you, or your father, that the records of the Lodz ghetto are now online, scanned. Links are accessible here: http://holocaustcontroversies.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/the-jews-buried-in-little-wood-near.html#_ftn3 - there are files regarding the 1942 arrivals from provincial towns like your father and grandfather, and a variety of name lists (residency lists, factories and so forth).

hmp49 said...

Nicholas,

Regarding the vans, I don't remember if my father said they were diesel, or whether I assumed that. He did believe the exhaust was rerouted, and carbon monoxide exhaust is deadly as well. I'm not certain how my father came to that conclusion, or if he inferred it from information he obtained later.

Thank you for all your important work. Over decades, my father has had to endure JEWS (including a reform RABBI) who told him it's time to move on from the Holocaust (or even more horrifically, "Orthodox" Jews who told him the Jews of Europe died because "they weren't pious enough")

Can you imagine that if someone had come into your home, and murdered every member of your immediately family, that anyone would EVER have the nerve to tell you, "it's time to move on," even 70 years later?

If you are interested, I could likely arrange for you to speak to my father directly. You can reach me privately via this form (of course, neither of us should post our emails publicly)

Benjamin Ferencz is my father's cousin. He was successful as Chief Prosecutor of 22 members of the Einsatzgruppen in his first case as at the Nuremberg Trials. I heard him lecture once on the kind of "rough justice" he meted out while still in the army investigating German war crimes (described in the Wikipedia article below)

Ferencz sent a car to bring my parents from the Landsberg DP camp to Nuremberg to hear the trial.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Ferencz

http://www.benferencz.org/

Nicholas Terry said...

Not sure if your form link failed to embed, however my work email is public after a click-through: http://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/history/staff/terry/ - I'd certainly like to know if your father gave testimonies before.