Evidence for the Presence of "Gassed" Jews in the Occupied Eastern Territories, Part 1
By a "Revisionist" who calls himself Thomas Kues (hereinafter "TK")
Part 3 (1)
Part 3 (2)
Part 3 (3)
3.3.2. Hilde Sherman-Zander
Hilde Sherman-Zander, a German Jewess born in 1923, was deported from Cologne to Riga on 10 December 1941. In her memoirs she recalls an incident taking place at a not further specified date in the summer of 1942:
“One morning on the way to work, as we crossed the railroad tracks, we found there standing a long train made up of cattle wagons. On the tracks lay small pieces of paper and cardboard, on which were written, ‘Help, we are thirsting to death’ and cries of ‘Water! Water!’
From the air apertures, which were barred with barbed wire, we saw hands and lower arms reaching out. Suddenly the unfortunates threw out rings, watches and money in the hope of receiving a mouthful of water in return. We were hastily marched on our way.
In the evening in the ghetto we learned that the clothing from this transport had already arrived in the Ghetto. Only the clothing. Also a couple of prams with baby bottles filled with milk. There was no trace of the people. They were Dutch Jews, deported from Westerboork [correct: Westerbork].
So it continued during the whole of the summer: Every second day large amounts of clothing arrived in the ghetto: bed sheets, shoes, toilet articles. Everything was unloaded in the enormous hall and then sorted. [...] Not once did a single human soul from all the thousands and yet thousands from these transports reach our ghetto. By now we knew where they went: to the Hochwald [i.e. the Bikernieki Forest]. All of them. Without exception. All were shot and buried in mass graves.”
Similar to Herman Kruk, Sherman-Zander claims that the Dutch deportees were all shot to death in forests in the vicinity of Riga, but this assertion is not based on observations of her own. As mentioned above, the deportation of Dutch Jews to Auschwitz began on 17 July 1942, a fact which fits well with Sherman-Zander’s testimony.
Except that there is no known documentary evidence corroborating the assumption that Dutch Jews were deported to the Riga Ghetto like a large number of German Jews were. The prams filled with baby bottles, if Dutch indeed, as well as the other articles mentioned by this witness, could have been from Dutch Jews killed or interned as inmates at Auschwitz-Birkenau, it being entirely possible that such articles were sent to Jewish ghettos or camps like some of the loot from the Aktion Reinhard(t) camps, mentioned in Globocnik’s report quoted in the previous section. The witness was told that the first such loot she saw was from the transport she had come across, but this information may have been mistaken.
On the other hand, according to a related memorial page, approximately 40,000 Jews from throughout Europe were murdered at Bikernieki Forest and are buried there. Photos of corpse-filled mass graves in the Bikernieki Forest are shown in my article Photos from the German East. If the Jews on the transport witnessed by Hilde Sherman-Zander never showed up in the ghetto, their having been killed in the Bikernieki Forest, as the witness was obviously informed they had been, is the likeliest of possibilities even if the witness did not see their killing herself. If indeed they were from the Netherlands, as the witness assumed, this would mean that at least one transport from the Netherlands currently held to have ended up in Auschwitz-Birkenau actually went to Riga, like transports from the German Reich before it. The likeliness of this possibility depends on the quality of documentation about transports from the Netherlands to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Transports from which a part of the deportees were selected for labor according to the camp records are the unlikeliest candidates for erroneous tracing, and if there were documented selections from all transports in the summer of 1942 the likeliest conclusion is that Hilde Sherman-Zander was mistaken about where the transport she saw came from and perhaps other details as well.
Even the opposite conclusion, however, wouldn’t make Auschwitz-Birkenau into a transit camp for even this one transport, unless transports from the Netherlands to Riga had to go through Auschwitz-Birkenau to reach Latvia even though transports from Germany didn’t have to (thus neither Selma Metzger Winkler nor Hilde Sherman-Zander mention having passed Auschwitz-Birkenau on the way to Riga). Perhaps TK can explain why this should have been so.
3.3.3. Hersh Smolar
Hersh Smolar was a Polish Jew born in 1905. In 1939 he fled from his native city of Bialystok to Minsk in Belarus, where after the German invasion in 1941 and the erection of the Minsk Ghetto he became a prominent figure in the local Jewish underground. From 1942 onwards, Smolar led a group of Jewish partisan fighters based in the forests and swamps near Minsk. In his memoirs, originally published in 1948, Smolar recalls the arrival of Western Jews to Minsk:
“Ever since transports of Jews from various European countries had begun arriving at the Minsk railroad station - from Germany and France, from Poland and Czechoslovakia, from Hungary and Greece - we were receiving from our people employed at the station fragmentary reports about the Jews in those countries. We heard about the various methods the Nazis were using not only to terrorize the Jews but to undermine their vigilance by deception. We knew, for example, that this was done by spreading rumors that the transports were going to work-places in the east.”
Unfortunately, while the passage quoted here is found in a chapter describing events taking place during the summer of 1942, Smolar does not make it clear when these transports began arriving or until what date they continued. We recall here that the first deportation of Jews from Greece took place in February 1943, whereas in France the deportations began already in March 1942.
Looks like Smolar war wrong about there being Greek Jews in Minsk, then. And as concerns the French Jews, the absence of corroborating documentary evidence (no recorded transports to Minsk from either France or Belgium) calls for also dismissing this part of Smolar’s account as unreliable, especially in the absence of any particulars about what made the witness conclude that there were deportees from France at Minsk.
The mention of Hungarian Jews might be taken to indicate that the information relayed by Smolar is unreliable, due to the reasons presented above in Section 2.2.3. There is, however, an entirely possible explanation for the presence of nominally Hungarian Jews in Belarus in 1942: In August 1941, 17,000 – 22,000 of the Jews living in the former Czechoslovak province of Carpatho-Russia, which had been incorporated into Hungary, were declared as stateless and deported by the Hungarian authorities across the Dnjestr River to the Ukrainian region of Kamenetz-Podolsk.
The problem with this "entirely possible explanation" is that the Jews deported by the Hungarian authorities across the Dnjestr River to the Ukrainian region of Kamenetz-Podolsk were massacred together with a number of local Jews on August 27-28, in a well-documented massacre orchestrated by Head of SS and Police Friedrich Jeckeln and described in Andrej Angrick’s book Besatzungspolitik und Massenmord. Die Einsatzgruppe D in der südllichen Sowjetunion, pages 203/204 (Angrick refers to depositions by participants in the course of West German criminal investigations and to several German documents including Ereignismeldung 80 dd. 11.9.1941, which speaks of 23,600 people shot).
Historian Christian Gerlach further mentions that the 2nd Hungarian Army brought some thousand of Hungarian “Work Jews” with them to Belarus in the summer of 1942, who were then also employed by Organisation Todt. In his short memoirs from 1961, the Berlin Jew Karl Loewenstein, who was deported to Minsk on 14 November 1941 and transferred to Theresienstadt on 13 May 1942 (due to distinguished service in World War I), mentions having been in contact with a Hungarian Jew in Minsk.
Gerlach’s research findings mentioned in my comments to TK’s section 2.2.1 are indeed a more plausible explanation for the presence of Hungarian Jews in Minsk.
3.3.4. Heinz Rosenberg
The German Jew Heinz Rosenberg, born in 1921, was deported from Hamburg to Minsk on 8 November 1941 (the first direct transport to that city). His memoirs were published in 1985. A few days after Rosenberg’s arrival to Minsk, another transport with “about 1000 Jews from Düsseldorf” arrived. This is perfect accordance with facts, since a transport bound for Minsk departed from Düsseldorf on 10 November. At the time, Rosenberg was told by SS members that “another 30 to 40 transports would follow”. This reported statement fits well with the fact that another 32 direct transports reached Minsk: 4 more in November 1941 and another 28 in the period May – November 1942 (most of them from Vienna). Rosenberg writes that in the next few weeks following the Düsseldorf transport, more trains arrived, each carrying about 1000 people, so that in all 7,500 Jews arrived in the ghetto (which seems to imply a total of 7 transports). The documents show that the transports to Minsk in November numbered 6, and that they carried a total of 5,453 people. Thus Rosenberg somewhat overestimates the number of deportees, but within a reasonable margin of error. The origins of the transports following the first two from Hamburg and Düsseldorf are given by Rosenberg as “Berlin, Vienna, Prague and Bremen/Hamburg”. The documents show (in chronological order): Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Brünn and Hamburg. Here Rosenberg is in error, but it is not as grave an error as it might appear. Brünn (present Brno) was a city in the Protectorate and it is not out of the question that Rosenberg in his recollections mistook it to have arrived from Prague. The mention of Vienna and the lacking mention of Frankfurt are perhaps more serious, and points to a somewhat faulty memory. Rosenberg is correct, however, that the last of the November transports arrived from Hamburg. It is worth noting here that Karl Loewenstein, who arrived with the fourth transport (from Berlin), recalled in 1961 that the three following transports arrived, in chronological order, from “Brünn, Bremen and Vienna”. Later in his recollection Loewenstein explicitly mentions the presence of Vienna Jews in Minsk in the winter of 1941-42 (and that part of the German ghetto had been named after these Jews), while the documents show that the first direct transport from Vienna to Minsk departed on 6 May 1942. A hypothetical explanation for this would be that the transport from Vienna to Kaunas departing on 23 November 1941 was for some reason rerouted to Minsk, or that some Jews from the Kaunas transport were sent on to Minsk. However, as far as the author of this article is aware, there exists no documentary evidence supporting this hypothesis.
At this point it seems appropriate to make a list of all recorded transports from the German Reich that arrived at Minsk while the Minsk Ghetto was in existence, according to the German Federal Archives’ chronicle of deportations from the German Reich and Christian Gerlach’s book Kalkulierte Morde (pages 747 ff.). The table below can be enlarged by clicking on it.
The German Federal Archives’ online Memorial Book lists a total of 23 transports to Minsk, thereof 7 in 1941 and 16 in 1942. The 1941 transports carried 6,937 to 7,090 deportees. The 1942 transports, whose occupants, except for a few selected for forced labor, were killed upon arrival at Maly Trostinec, carried 15,399 to 15,421 deportees. The total number of deportees on all 23 transports recorded by the Memorial Book as having been taken to Minsk is 22,336 to 22,511.
The additional six transports mentioned by Gerlach, for which the available data were incomplete at the time of Gerlach’s writing and for some of which destinations or possible destinations other than Minsk are given by the Memorial Book, may have carried about 6,000 deportees. If they did and if these deportees arrived in Minsk, the total number of recorded deportees to Minsk from the German Reich (Germany, Austria and the Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia) increases to between 28,336 and 28,511. The number of deportees arriving in 1942 and mostly killed at Maly Trostinec upon arrival would rise to between 21,399 and 21,421.
According to the ARC page about the Minsk Ghetto, a total of 35,442 Jews from the Reich and the "Protectorate" were deported to Minsk between November 1941 and October 1942.
The part of Rosenberg’s memoirs that interests us here describes how the witness worked in February-March 1942 with sorting the belongings from arriving transports in the former Minsk Opera:
“A large contingent of ghetto inmates worked every day in this building with sorting the stolen goods of the ‘enemies of the Reich’. We were dealing with hundreds and thousands of trunks, rucksacks and handbags from the belongings of some 23,000 Jews, who had arrived to Minsk in 23 transports, but never were admitted into the ghetto. Instead they were shot or gassed immediately at arrival. Only from the labels on the trunks could our people know where the transports had come from.”
Apparently Rosenberg “knew” about the fate of these Jewish transports only from hearsay, as he himself during this period of time neither was present at the railway station nor outside of the city near the alleged killing sites. It may be worth noting in this context K. Loewenstein’s comment that the Minsk railway station and the ghetto of the German Jews were located in opposite ends of the city.
According to the documents, not a single direct transport from the west arrived in Minsk during the whole period from December 1941 to May 1942. The possible counterargument that the luggage Rosenberg sorted might have come from Jews sent from Theresienstadt to nearby Maly Trostinec does not hold water, since the first of these transports (five in all) departed on 14 July 1942. Neither does there exist, as far as the author of this article is aware, any reports of Jewish transports arriving by train to Minsk from other parts of Ostland or the Ukraine during the period in question. This implies that if Rosenberg is correct, then the 23 unknown transports arrived to Minsk indirectly from the west via Chełmno or Auschwitz. Alas, Rosenberg does not tell his readers what he and his fellow workers read on the trunk labels!
Actually the likeliest explanation is that Rosenberg simply got the year wrong in his account and was actually referring to February-March 1943 and not February-March 1942. He may also have counted all 23 transports recorded in the Memorial Book that arrived in 1941 and 1942 instead of only the 16 that arrived in 1942, and his figure of 23,000, less than 500 away from the highest number of deportees in those 23 transports according to the Memorial Book, may have included not only the arrivals in 1942 killed right after arrival but also the 1941 arrivals who were initially spared (as Gerlach mentions on page 754 of his book, General Commissar Kube in Minsk made a distinction between the "animalesque local hordes" and "persons from our cultural circle" and wouldn’t proceed to killing German Jews without a specific instruction to do so) but eventually also killed just like the local Jews and the later arrivals. However it is also possible, considering the addional transports listed by Gerlach, that Rosenberg counted only the transports arriving in 1942 whose occupants were killed upon arrival. In this case he would have counted just one transport too many, and his number of victims would also not be too far away from the 21,399 to 21,421 victims mentioned above.
While this alone is enough to shatter TK’s conjectures, it should be pointed out that hypothetical additional transports to Minsk need not have gone there via Chelmno or Auschwitz any more than the recorded transports had to pass either of these places. So even if the transports mentioned by Rosenberg were a big mystery, they would not be an indication supporting TK’s transit camp theory.
When we compare Rosenberg’s statement with what contemporary documents has to tell us about Minsk during the period in question (early 1942) something rather curious crops up. On 5 January 1942, the Stadtkommissar of Minsk, Gauamtsleiter Wilhelm Janetzke sent a letter to the Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories, Alfred Rosenberg, in which he related that he had just been informed by the SS and Police that central authorities had the intention
“of bringing approximately 50,000 more Jews from Germany to Minsk in the next weeks and months.”
Janetzke strongly protested the planned deportations, arguing that the city, which had been severely devastated by the war but still had 100,000 civilian inhabitants, could not receive more transports, and that there were in the city’s ghettos already “about 7,000 Jews from Germany” and “roughly from 15,000 to 18,000 Russian Jews”. 
On 16 January, the expert on Jewish questions in Rosenberg’s ministry, Amtsgerichtsrat Wetzel, replied in a letter addressed to Reichskommissar Lohse (i.e. Janetzke’s superior):
“According to a communication of the Reich Security Headquarters imparted to me, it was planned to send 25,000 Jews from the Reich to Minsk, who were supposed to be accommodated in the ghetto there. Of these, 7-8,000 Jews have reached Minsk. The rest who remained behind cannot be transferred to Minsk at this time due to transportation difficulties. As soon as these difficulties are removed, however, the arrival of these Jews in Minsk must be reckoned with.”
On 6 February 1942 Generalkommissar Kube wrote a letter to Lohse in which he supported Janetzke’s protest and pointed out the impossibility of accommodating yet an additional 25,000 Jews.
As has already been mentioned, no Jewish transports are recorded as having departed for Mink during the long period from 19 November 1941 to 6 May 1942, when the first known transport from Vienna departed. Did it really take this long to remove the referred-to transport difficulties? Or was the problem in fact solved not long after Wetzel’s reply and the deportation of Jews to Minsk renewed, as Rosenberg’s account hints at?
If we add together the recorded number of Jews deported directly from the Reich to Minsk in the period 6 May – 28 November 1942 (the date of the last recorded such transport) we reach the figure of 25,657 people. For one of the recorded transports during this period, however, the number of deported Jews is not known. The transport in question departed from Cologne on 22 July 1942 and had the code Da-219. Since virtually all of the other direct transports from the Reich to Ostland carried approximately 1,000 persons each, we are justified in assuming this average number also for Da-219. Thus some 26,657 Reich Jews were sent to Minsk during the abovementioned period in 28 transports. If we then add to these the 23,000 arrivals in February-March claimed by Rosenberg, we get the figure 49,657, that is, almost exactly the number of Jewish deportees (50,000) that the SS and Police authorities in early January 1942 had told Janetzke would arrive to Minsk “in the next weeks and months”. Was the deportation schedule resumed again in February but then stretched out over the whole of 1942 in order to make it easier for the local administration to find accommodation for the arrivals?
As we have seen, the 23,000 arrivals mentioned by Rosenberg that TK would like to have taken place in February-March 1942 can be easily made compatible with the available transportation records by assuming that the witness was referring to February-March 1943, i.e. a simple and understandable mistake in recollection, or even just a mistake he made in the writing of his memoirs. If the number of transports and deportees to Minsk in 1942 is as high as claimed by TK (it would be interesting to know TK’s sources in this respect, as he mentions transports to Minsk that are not recorded as such by either the Memorial Book or Gerlach), this would mean that Rosenberg either underestimated both or was referring only to those among these transports whose spoils were still being processed in February-March of the following year.
As to the reason why transports to Minsk were interrupted between the transports leaving Vienna on 28.11.1941 and on 06.05.1942, Gerlach writes the following (as above pages 752 ff, my translation and emphases):
The other transports, including one from Prague, which arrived at Theresienstadt on 30 November, and one that was supposed to leave Cologne on 8.12.1942, were cancelled just like those that had been announced for January 1942. Instead more Jews than had been planned were taken to Riga (and Kaunas), more than 30,000. The decisive factors for stopping deportations to Minsk were not the protests of Kube, city commandant Janetzke and the Wehrmacht Commander for the Eastern Territories, related to security considerations, housing and feeding difficulties, but the catastrophic railway transport situation of Army Group Center during the futile tour de force at the lost battle of Moscow, whereas the logistics situation at Army Group North was relatively favorable, so that transports could roll to Riga.
Didn’t TK read Gerlach’s book, or did he just miss the part mentioning that most of the Jews originally meant for Minsk were sent to Riga because of the more favorable transport situation in the area of Army Group North, which renders moot his conjectures about transports to Minsk being "stretched out over the whole of 1942"?
About the resumption of transports to Minsk starting May 1942, Gerlach writes the following (as above pages 756 ff, my translation:
The resumption of deportations to Minsk was obviously prepared by visits of Eichmann and Himmler in March and of Heydrich in April 1942. The German, Austrian and Czech Jews that were deported to Minsk in 1942 were almost all shot or suffocated [in gas vans, translator’s note] by forces of the Minsk Commander of Security Police immediately after their arrival, except for mostly 20 to 50 skilled workers selected at the place of disembarkment, which went to Trostinez. Already during the trip the people died of hunger and thirst. The people were deceived until the last Moment. As a harrowing testimony about this we possess the post card of Oscar Hoffmann from Cologne, in which he in the morning of 24 July 1942 after arriving in Minsk, immediately before being murdered at Trostinez, requested being sent a certificate from home:
"It is said that we shall shortly leave the station with our luggage in order to be committed to a camp. One presumes that we shall be employed in agriculture in the vicinity of Minsk. As I hear right now, there is a certain possibility that we will be able to work in our professions at the local businesses."
None of the transports seems to have been directed to the ghetto. The reason given for murdering these people was that "one didn’t know what to do with them. They couldn’t be used for work and thus were useless eaters" [Gerlach cites a member of an execution detachment after his deposition on 7.8.1959 kept in the files of the public prosecutor's office in Koblenz, Germany - translator's note]. This probably applied especially to the Jews from the old-age ghetto Theresienstadt. We have detailed knowledge of the transports due to some files found in the 1960s, especially the file "Da-Züge" of the Main Railway Direction in Minsk, which, although incomplete, allow for the most comprehensive insight so far into the deportations of Jews from Germany The Commander of Security Police Minsk used to have a file about each single transport. Reports from execution detachments have also been recovered.
Such detailed documentation about the transport of about 20,000 Reich Jews sent to Minsk in 1942, but no documentation whatsoever about the alleged transport of about 2 million people to the occupied Soviet territories. This flagrant contradiction alone shows the utter baselessness of the "Revisionist" transit camp theory.
3.3.5. Friedrich Jeckeln
In an interrogation held in Soviet custody on 14 December 1945, the former Higher Leader of the SS and Police of Ostland, Friedrich Jeckeln, made the following statement concerning the Latvian “death camp” of Salaspils:
“Q: What countries were the Jews in Salaspils brought from?
A: Jews were brought from Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, Czechoslovakia, and from other occupied countries to the Salaspils camp. To give a precise count of Jews in the Salaspils camp would be difficult. [...]. The first Jewish convoys arrived in Salaspils in November 1941. Then, in the first half of 1942, convoys arrived at regular intervals. I believe that in November 1941, no more than three convoys arrived in all, but during the next seven months, from December 1941 to June 1942, eight to twelve convoys arrived each month. Overall, in eight months, no less than fifty-five and no more than eighty-seven Jewish convoys arrived at the camp. Given that each convoy carried a thousand men, that makes a total of 55,000 to 87,000 Jews exterminated in the Salaspils camp.”
It should be noted here that while Russia as late as 2004 claimed that 101,000 “Soviet citizens” had been killed at Salaspils, and whereas a Soviet encyclopedia in 1970 gave the victim number as at least 53,700, current historiography estimate a death toll of only some thousands. We will return to the issue of Salaspils further on in this article.
So what’s the poet trying to tell us here? Jeckeln is likely to have been telling a story that had been fed to him by his Soviet interrogators (unlike "Revisionists" may want to believe, their opponents have no problem whatsoever with the notion that depositions of German perpetrators in Soviet custody were sometimes influenced – which is one of the reasons why they tend to accept Soviet interrogation protocols and investigation reports as accurate only to the extent they are corroborated by evidence independent of the Soviets, as exemplified in the blogs Mass Graves in the Polesie and Neither the Soviets nor the Poles have found any mass graves with even only a few thousand bodies …). It is also possible that Jeckeln was trying to make his Soviet interrogators believe that he had essentially killed Jews from abroad rather than Soviet prisoners of war and (also non-Jewish) "peaceful Soviet citizens".
Current knowledge about Salaspils is well summarized on this page, as follows:
The German occupation authorities established Stalag-350-s, a camp for Soviet prisoners of war in Salaspils. According to a report compiled by the Soviet authorities in 1944, 43,000 captured Red Army personnel either were killed or died from diseases and starvation here.
Later, 2 km from that camp in the nearby forest, the Nazi SS established the largest occupation camp in the occupied Baltic for civilians. This camp was not listed in Nazi documents as a concentration camp, but instead it was officially designated as a work and education camp (German: Arbeits- und Erziehungslager or AEL), a status similar to a prison. As such, it was directly subordinated to the HSSPF Ostland, the highest German police authority in the occupied Baltics. By contrast, Nazi concentration camps (KZ) were generally subordinated to the WVHA, the economic exploitation administration of the SS.
The number of those who died at Salapils camp is a the subject of ongoing debate. There are three different numbers mentioned in accounts published by Soviet historians. The history of the Latvian SSR printed in 1959 claims 56,000 people were killed. The Little Latvian Encyclopedia published in the 1970s claims 53,000 were killed. History textbooks published in the 1980s by the Soviet Union claim that over 100,000 people were killed in Salaspils. Similarly, archival documents of Soviet provenance recently published in Russia estimate the total number killed in Salaspils concentration camp to be 101,000.
Camp survivor H. Baermann, who was imprisoned at Salaspils from December 1941 to August 1942, reported that in this period 15,000 persons passed through the camp, and almost all of them were killed, only 192 survived. According to another eye-witness account, by E. K. Salijums, Soviet children in particular were annihilated by the Nazis through "medical experiments", from which some 150 children died each day. In total from 1942 to 1944 some 12,000 Soviet children passed through the camp, most of them being tortured by pumping out their blood (500 grams from each). In one of the burial places by the camp 632 corpses of children of ages 5 to 9 were revealed, with total number of Soviet children killed in the camp estimated to be 7,000.
Recent scholarship produced outside Russia questions the magnitude of these Soviet-era figures. The Latvian historian Heinrihs Strods and the German Holocaust historians Andrej Angrick and Peter Klein conclude that a more a realistic number of deaths at Salaspils is 2,000–3,000 in total, including children.
Jeckeln’s lower figure of 55,000, as well as the 1970 Soviet encyclopedia figure of 53,700 dead, may have resulted from adding an assumed 10-12,000 victims of the Salaspils Arbeitserziehungslager to the 43,000 victims of the POW camp Stalag-350-s estimated by Soviet authorities (which may also be an overestimate, considering that German historian Dieter Pohl, in his book Verfolgung und Massenmord in der NS-Zeit 1933-1945, page 41, mentions "at least 19,000 victims" among the Soviet POWs at Stalag 350 in the Riga area). The 2004 Russian claim of 101,000 victims may have resulted from adding a probably exaggerated death toll estimate for the Salaspils POW camp and a certainly much exaggerated estimate for the Salaspils labor camp. I’ll stick with Pohl for the former and with Angrick and Klein for the latter.
3.3.6. William W. Mishell
Mishell, born as Mishelski in 1918, was a Lithuanian Jew who during the war lived in the Kovno Ghetto. In his memoirs from 1988 he writes of one or more transports of French Jews to Kovno in the summer of 1942:
“Barely had the bodies of the Jews from Vienna a chance to cool when, one morning, a new transport of Jews was brought to Kovno for extermination. [...]. Nobody was quite sure, but it seemed that this group was from France. [...]. Several more transports came in short succession and then they stopped, for how long we did not know.”
Mainstream historiography knows of only one transports of Viennese (or other Austrian) Jews to Kaunas, which took place on November 23, 1941. The ambiguity concerning the nationality of the “French” deportees as well as the late date of Mishell’s memoirs prompts us to regard this piece of witness evidence as of minor value.
I’ll let TK in on a litte secret here: all testimonies he has presented so far are not only of minor value, but of no value at all for the purpose of supporting the fantastic claim that the Nazi extermination camps were actually transit camps. The very idea that a handful of testimonies could make up for the yawning absence of the abundant documentary evidence and the thousands upon thousands of surviving eyewitnesses that would be available, if indeed 2 million people had been transited to the occupied Soviet territories via these camps, is already so absurd that one might even question the sanity of who obviously invested so much work into this futile and counterproductive exercise as TK obviously did.
For the purpose of exposing "Revisionist" falsehood and ill-reasoning, on the other hand, some of these testimonies have been quite useful. And I expect nothing else of what follows.
3.3.7. Lebke Distel
In his book on Abba Kovner’s Lithuanian-Jewish resistance group, The Avengers, Rich Cohen recounts the story of a companion of Kovner’s named Lebke Distel who on 1 September 1943 was deported from Vilna to Estonia and various camps near the Narva-Leningrad theatre of the eastern front, only to be reunited with Kovner and his group in 1945:
“From Wilna, Lebke had been sent from prison camp to prison camp, a death march, always one step ahead of the Red Army. In Kortla Java, he worked on the roads in the swampy country. At night he could hear shelling and rifle shots. He was then sent down the river Narva River to Suski, where he built the German railroad. The temperature dropped to twenty five degrees below zero; prisoners carried the dead to be counted and burned. The snow was to his waist in Koromej, where he was locked up with Jews from Holland and Kovno. He then marched west to a half-remembered foundry of red flames and smoke chimneys. He worked in the metal shop. One day a door opened and in walked his brother, which Lebke had last seen in Vilna. Their mother had been sent to Auschwitz or Ponar, her good hiding place given away by a Jewish policeman. Lebke’s feet were bloody in Tallinn, the snow-covered capital of Estonia, houses serene beyond the boxcar door. A boat took him to Stutthof, outside Gdansk, the blue-black port. It was summer. Lebke was shaved, put in uniform and marched to Stuttgart.”
An indirect retelling of someone’s experiences like the one above naturally has less evidential value than would an account coming directly from Distel himself. We know from the “acknowledgments” page of the book that Cohen met and interviewed Distel in Yaqim in Israel, and we may thus assume that the passage above is based on statements from Distel. As will be seen below, the sequence of events described fits with documented facts about the places mentioned.
The name “Koromej” is not to be found on any map of Eastern Europe. Distel was however referring to a real place. The location of “Koromej” can be identified with certainty thanks partially to Distel’s mention of other places, partially thanks to the testimony of a certain Miriam Reich, a Jewess from Kovno who on 26 October 1943 was deported to “Camp Kurame” in Estonia. She describes her brief stay in the camp as follows:
“Our bunks were very primitive. No running water. No toilet facilities. An outhouse and a well were all we had. We did what we could to keep ourselves clean, but most of the time it was too cold to even want to undress and bathe. Looking for lice in the seams of our clothes was the most common evening recreational activity. Needless to say, the smell in the bunks, particularly at night, was odious. We slept on tiers of boards, one above the other, bundled up in our day clothes for warmth. Blankets were scarce. There was a wood stove in the center of the bunk that would burn dimly at night. [...]. We built roads in the middle of nowhere. Ostensibly, these roads were going to provide the Germans with greater access to the Russian front. Trees had to be cleared, road beds dug, and gravel spread, all manually. The supervisors were mainly local Estonians recruited by the Germans. Some were quite decent; others were worse than the Germans. Lunch consisted of some nondescript cabbage soup with a few potatoes thrown in, and upon our return to our bunks, more of the same with a slice or two of bread.”
A close look at a map of Estonia (cf. Ill. 2) will reveal the presence of a village named Kuremäe located some 20 km south-west of the city of Narva. Some 15 km to the north-north-east of Kuremäe we find Vaivara, a concentration camp from which a large number of Jews as well as Soviet POW:s were distributed to a network of labor camps in the north-eastern part of Estonia, including Klooga, Narva-Ost, Aseri, Kiviõli, Viivikonna, Lagedi, and, indeed, Kuremäe. The presence of Reich and other Kovno Jews in “Camp Kurame” fits well with the mention in Lebke Distel’s story of Kovno Jews being present at “Koromej”. Unfortunately, Reich does not mention the origin of the other inmates of the camp.
Illustration 2. The area south-west of Narva in 1944, with Kuremäe and Vaivara underlined by the author. (Source: Section of Deutsche Heereskarte Osteuropa 1:300 000, Ausgabe Nr. 2, Blatt-Nr. U60, Narwa).
The camp encyclopedia Der Ort des Terrors has the following to tell us about Kuremäe:
“The subcamp [Außenlager] in Kuremäe, a village in the north-east of Estonia (...) was established in October 1943. The first 150 prisoners were initially housed in a former communal building. They lacked everything: food, water, latrines, shoes and clothing. [...]. Some inmates were deported directly from Kaunas [Kovno] to Kuremäe, others were brought in from different camps.
The forced labor consisted in the construction of a narrow gauge railway. In November 1943 the number of inmates rose to 462. Bodmann [an SS camp physician] mentioned the high percentage of inmates ‘completely unable to work’ who were, however, to be reduced. The 33 registered deaths in November were likely not due to natural causes. In December 1943 and January 1944 the number of inmates was slightly reduced, and Bodmann registered 10 and 14 deaths respectively. 437 prisoners from Soski were brought to Kuremäe in February 1944, something which raised the total number to 850. On 8 and 6 February prisoners on the work sites were killed by Soviet artillery fire.
The head of the camp was Alfred Engst, and a certain Knott was medical orderly [Sanitätsdienstgrad]. Erich Scharfetter was present in the camp from February to March 1943 as medical orderly and disinfector. He was infamous because of numerous atrocities. [...] Scharfetter was sentenced to life imprisonment in Stade for several cases of murder. [...]. In March 1944 Kuremäe was closed. After an evacuation march under terrible conditions the inmates were distributed to various camps. Several witnesses mention Goldfields as the next station.”
Since “Suski” is undoubtedly the same camp as Soski (in Viru County), Lebke Distel most likely arrived to Kuremäe in February 1944. Miriam Reich on the other hand stayed in Kuremäe only “halfway through the winter”, when she and other inmates, including her mother, were marched to the camp in Goldfields. As for Soski, we are informed by the same encyclopedia that it was yet another subcamp of Vaivara, located in the vicinity of Lake Peipus and the Narva River. The inmates there worked on constructing a narrow gauge railroad – another detail which confirms the veracity of Distel’s story – as well as with shale-oil production.
Lebke Distel’s route is moreover confirmed by an eyewitness account from a certain Wein Moyshe about “The Entrapment of the FPO Group [Abba Kovner’s resistance group] at Szpitalna Street 6” which was included among the undated notes taken by Herman Kruk in Estonia. The only main difference is that the deportation from Vilna here takes place on 2 August 1943, not 1 September. Moyshe mentions among the deported FPO members a Jew named “Letsid” whom the editor of the Kruk diary identifies as “Letsid Distel”. According to Moyshe’s account the train reached Vaivara via Daugavpils, Riga and Tartu. From Vaivara part of the transport continued to Kohtla (no doubt identical with the “Kortla Java” mentioned in the Distel account) and from there on to the Vaivara subcamp Ereda. “About September 1” the FPO members were sent to Narva and then to Soski, where they met 250 Jews “from the ghetto” (likely it is the Vilna Ghetto that is implied). At the “beginning of February 1944” the Jews from the Soski camp “marched 20 kilometers to Kuremae, where it was integrated into another Jewish camp.” In March the Jews in this camp “marched 60 kilometers toward Goldfilz [Goldfields]”. Some of them were later sent on to the Klooga camp.
The Distel account is important since it indicates that the Dutch Jews deported the Baltic States were not sent there to be killed en masse, as at least some of them were still alive in early 1944.
TK did some elaborate research here, but the conclusions for the sake of which he did all this hard work again make me worry about the poor man’s sanity. Like many an inaccurate detail in otherwise accurate testimonies, the mention of Dutch Jews in Distel’s account may well have been a mistake, either on the part of the first-hand witness himself or of the second-hand-witness rendering the first-hand witness’s account. The only Dutch candidates for a labor camp in Estonia that I can think of as possibly compatible with the known documentary evidence are those removed as forced laborers at Kosel in East Prussia from transports bound for Auschwitz-Birkenau. About these forced laborers Gerhard Hirschfeld’s article about the Netherlands contains the following information (Benz et al, Dimensionen des Völkermords, page 151, my translation):
Until the end of 1942 another 40 transports left the "transit camp" Westerbork for Auschwitz. Another eight followed in January and February of the next year, furthermore a transport with 869 Jewish inmates and 52 nursing staff members from the sanatorium "Het Apeldoornse Bos", which was dispatched directly in Apeldoorn on 21 February 1943. A total of 46,455 Jews of all age groups in 52 transports were deported “to the east” from the Netherlands during this deportation period (July 1942 – February 1943). But not all of them went directly to Auschwitz. 18 trains stopped at Kosel, about 80 kms before Auschwitz, where numerous men "able to work" aged 15 to 50 were committed to special forced labor camps. The largest of these camps was in Blechhammer, where for some time about 1,200 Jews from Westerbork and other places were employed in the Oberschlesiche Hydrierwerke making synthetic gasoline. The life and work conditions in the forced labor camps, which were later declared sub-camps of Auschwitz III (Monowitz) and Gross-Rosen, were such that only 181 out of a total of 3,540 deportees of this so-called Kosel group survived the "labor assignment" and the later "evacutions". From a purely statistical point of view their survival chances were still better, however, than those of all other deportees. Of the 42,915 Jews deported directly from Westerbork to Auschwitz only 85 were still alive after the extermination camp’s liberation.
It is again amazing, by the way, to see as "Revisionist" proclaim as "important" a second-hand account that he would probably dismiss as mere hearsay if it didn’t fit his articles of faith. And a "Revisionist"’s laborious demonstration that hearsay can contain essentially accurate information is something one doesn’t come across every day.
3.3.8. Paula Frankel-Zaltzman
In a witness testimony from the Latvian Jewess and Daugavpils Ghetto inmate Paula Frankel-Zaltzman, originally published in Yiddish in 1949 and now available online in English translation, we find the following sentence buried in a description of the liquidation of the Daugavpils Ghetto on 25 October 1943:
“Just then they started to take us to Pogulanka where the earth is soaked with the blood of tens of thousands of Jewish victims from Latvia, Holland and other countries.”
The transport carrying the witness did not stop at Pogulanka but went on to Riga. Needless to say, this brief statement has little evidential value, since Frankel-Zaltzman does not state that she herself observed any Dutch Jews. Nevertheless this throw-away reference indicates that she regarded transports from the Netherlands to Latvia as something of a common fact.
Or that she thought there were also foreign Jews among the deportees and Holland was for some reason the first country that came to her mind as a foreign country where deportations to Pogulanka may have originated.
Pogulanka (or Pagulanska) is the name of a forest just north-west of Daugavpils (Dvinsk, in German Dünaburg) in south-eastern Latvia, which allegedly served as the site for mass shootings of Jews.
I thank TK for a link to an interesting page in the footnote. Further information about the Daugavpils Ghetto can be found on the related Wikipedia page. Why the "allegedly", by the way?
3.3.9. Jack Ratz
Jack Ratz was born in Riga in 1927. In May 1943 he was sent to Lenta, a labor camp some 40 km north-east of Riga, where some 500 Jews worked:
“After two months, four hundred Jews were left in Lenta, all Latvians. After a few months, a new transport arrived, but the newcomers were not Latvian. They were German, Czechoslovakian, Austrian, and Polish Jews. Some of the foreign Jews were from the Riga ghetto; the Polish Jews had come straight from Poland. Lenta now had a mixed Jewish population.”
One should note here that the Polish Jews are explicitly stated to have “come straight from Poland”, in other words they were not Polish Jews from Belarus.
Looks like Jewish forced laborers from Poland were also deported to Latvia besides Belorussia, where Gerlach traced the transports mentioned in my comments to TK’s section 2.2.1.
So what is the preliminary conclusion after examining Part I of TK’s laborious study?
We have seen that, where one should reasonably expect a huge paper trail of primary documentation and thousands upon thousands of eyewitness testimonies showing that about 2 million people were transited to the occupied Soviet territories via Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibór, Treblinka, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Lublin-Majdanek, and that there is thus at least a good reason to suspect that all known evidence to mass murder at these places has been manipulated, all that one of the current big names of "Revisionism" has offered is …
a) a few contemporary press reports and studies based on limited and often inaccurate information, which have long been overruled by more recent criminal investigation and historical research with a more or less complete access to primary sources of evidence;
b) nine eyewitness testimonies that are either compatible with what becomes apparent from documentary evidence about deportations, or the incompatibility of which with such evidence must be reasonably attributed to a mistake by the eyewitness or his or her source rather than to gaps or mistakes in documentary records, even cases where the witnesses might be right to the detriment of documentary research offering no support for the transit camp theory; and
c) TK’s interpretation and correlation with other evidence of such sources, which leaves much to be desired as concerns thoroughness, logic and intellectual honesty.
Rather than support the transit camp theory, what TK has shown us so far is another nail in the coffin of that absurd theory.
My answer to nexgen586's question in the OP of his thread thus is that he has been given a link not to an exciting cache of newly manufactured "holonails", but to another collection of "Revisionist" loose screws.
To be continued...
Yeah, please continue! :)