Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka. Holocaust Denial and Operation Reinhard. Chapter 5: Gas Chambers at the Aktion Reinhard Camps (4). Property Plunder.

Property Plunder

As a secondary effect of the extermination process, the Aktion Reinhard staff were able to reap the rewards of their actions by confiscating the property and valuables of the Jewish deportees brought to the camps, and never heard from again. While the documentation and evidence for the theft and removal of the deportees’ belongings does not itself constitute direct proof of homicidal gassings, it does provide strong circumstantial weight to the reality of their occurrence. The property plunder also serves as a means to test the reliability of the witness testimonies, as the available documentation bears out their statements regarding the removal of the deportees’ belongings. The total theft of the deportees’ property also stands in stark contrast to any alleged “transit camp” thesis that Revisionists often espouse. It is likely due to these factors that MGK have largely ignored this subject in their works.[141] Highlighting just how pitiful MGK’s brief handling of this subject is, a comparison is in order: in Yitzhak Arad’s seminal work, the property plunder subject is analyzed through the open use of eight documents and fifteen witnesses[142], while MGK only manage to discuss four documents (one only related to Sachsenhausen) and one witness. Even more unfortunate for MGK is that Arad did not use all the existing documentation available.
The collection, organization, and distribution of deportee property by the Aktion Reinhard staff was codified in a September 26, 1942 order from SS-Brigadeführer August Frank, a figure in the Economic and Administrative Main Office (WVHA) of Himmler’s SS. The order mandated, among other things:
1. All money in bills of the Reichsbank (German currency) will be deposited in Account No. 158/1488 of the WVHA in the Reichsbank.2. Foreign currency, rare metals, diamonds, precious stones, pearls, gold teeth, and pieces of gold will be transferred to the WVHA for deposit in the Reichsbank.(…)4. Men’s clothing and underwear, including shoes, will be sorted and checked. Whatever cannot be used by the prisoners in the concentration camps and items of special value will be kept for the troops; the rest will be transferred to VoMi (Department for the Volksdeutsche).5. Women’s underwear and clothing will be sold to the VoMi, except for pure silk underwear (men’s or women’s), which will be sent directly to the Economic Ministry.
6. Feather-bedding, blankets, umbrellas, baby carriages, handbags, leather belts, baskets, pipes, sunglasses, mirrors, briefcases, and material will be transferred to VoMi. Payment will be arranged later.
7. Bedding, like sheets and pillowcases, as well as towels and tablecloths will be sold to VoMi.8. All types of eyeglasses will be forwarded for the use of the Medical Authority. Glasses with gold frames will be transferred without the lenses along with the precious metals.[143]
Frank’s order, which related to the utilization of “mobile and immobile property of the resettled Jews,” formally bureaucratized the transfer of property from Jewish deportees to the Nazi state. As this entire document was included in Yitzhak Arad’s 1987 seminal work on the Reinhard camps, a work which is cited in nearly every piece of writing by the members of MGK, they either failed to read the entire work or selectively omitted it from their discussions of property plunder. It is not surprising that MGK completely ignore this document, as it easily refutes their dishonest notion that the Nazi theft of Jewish property was, if it did occur, only limited to a “small portion” and was performed arbitrarily or due to the deportees exceeding a maximum allowance of luggage.[144] In reality, the plunder was much more systematic, and was centralized into the extermination process.[145]    
On February 6, 1943, the head of the SS Economic and Administrative Main Office, Oswald Pohl, sent out a report on the utilization of textile materials recovered from the Jewish actions in the Aktion Reinhard and Auschwitz camps during the past year. Most of the materials would have originated with the Reinhard camps (which were transferred to Lublin), as they treated more Jewish arrivals than the Auschwitz camp in 1942.[146] In Pohl’s report, he counted a total of 825 freight cars full of goods which were transferred to various Reich bureaucracies, which included 262,000 adult outfits, tens of thousands of pieces of bed linen and a wide variety of male, female, and children’s clothing, along with 2,700,000 kg of “rags” (old and unusable clothes).[147]
Mattogno’s analysis of this and other documents are entirely unconvincing. He believes that since a document from the Generaldirektion der Ostbahn (Directorate General of the Eastern Railroad, Gedob for short) refers to a goods train from Treblinka containing “articles of clothing of the Waffen-SS”, that it is “particularly improbable” that the train contained clothing from Jewish deportees. The designation was likely issued by the SS-Wirtschafter of HSSPF Ost (Economic office of the HSSPF in Poland, which was de facto a Waffen-SS office) to facilitate the shipping of the clothing, as material related to the Waffen-SS held priority in transportation. Also, as Treblinka was not located anywhere near the area of operations of the various Waffen-SS units, Mattogno would be hard pressed to explain how and why the units’ uniforms were brought back to Treblinka for cleaning/delousing/sorting; his conjecture lacks any type of evidentiary weight.  
Mattogno also ignores other relevant documents which deconstruct his baseless assumptions regarding the deportees’ property. In his discussion of documents recording goods from the Treblinka camp, Mattogno engages in the snapshot fallacy. While Mattogno argues that 1,300 freight cars would have been necessary to carry what he expects the total amount of clothing to be for the Treblinka deportees (10 kg per deportee[148]), he finds it “ridiculous” that the September 13, 1942, Gedob document only counts 50 train cars of clothing leaving Treblinka. Not included in his analysis on clothing, however, are two other available Gedob documents recording train loads of clothing departing from Treblinka: one from September 9, recording 51 such cars, and one from September 21, recording another 52 cars. Thus, within a twelve day period in September 1942, Treblinka shipped out 153 freight cars of clothing (12% of Mattogno’s assumed total). With Globocnik’s recognition that by 1 January 1944 the Reinhard program had recorded some 2,000 freight cars of textile goods, whatever deficit of textile rail cars Mattogno felt existed was thoroughly covered.[149]    
Oscar Strawczynski, a Jewish prisoner who worked sorting the belongings at the Treblinka camp, described the process:
Blankets and tablecloths are spread on the ground and all kinds of goods are collected on them.  There is a huge quantity and an astonishing variety: from, the most expensive imported textiles, to the cheapest cottons, from the most elegant suits, to the cheapest worn-out rags.  There are avenues of suitcases and in them everything imaginable: haberdashery, cosmetics, drugs—­it seems there is no article in the world that cannot be found here. The sorted items are brought to one side of the square where they are piled into huge bales.  There is also food in enormous amounts: dried noodles, sugar, soap, candles, matches, cigarettes, and sweets.  There is no lack of the most expensive canned foods, tea and coffee, but also there are mouldy crusts of bread.  Some poor Jews even brought a few potatoes.A special spot is designated for suitcases with valu­ables.  They are filled with precious gold, jewellery, chains and watches, bracelets, diamond rings and plain gold rings—most of all wedding rings.  There are trea­sures in foreign currency—gold and paper dollars, pounds sterling and old Russian gold coins.  Polish money is hardly worth mentioning; it is stacked up in mountains.  From time to time the “Gold Jews” who sort these treasures appear.  They remove the filled suitcases and replace them with empty ones.  These too are quickly filled.[150] 
Abraham Krzepicki’s account of his stay in Treblinka also mentions the sorting of clothes:
When we were through with the bodies in the well, we were taken to clear away the things in the left-hand barracks, where the people undressed before entering the gas chamber.  Here, piled up in huge mounds, were the garments, underwear, shoes and all sorts of other items left by the men, women and children who had undressed there the day before.  Various amounts of cash, large and small, were also lying around on the floor.  There was Polish money as well as foreign currency, securities and jewelry.  It was our job to pick up the rags as they were, and to add them to the piles of clothing near the railroad tracks.[151]
After the property was organized and prepared, it was loaded onto trains, and sent off from the camp; many of the cars with textile material were brought to an old airport in Lublin, serving as a sub camp of Majdanek. This airport-turned-SS workshop became the gathering point for most of the deportees’ material during Aktion Reinhard. SS man Ernst Gollak, who served at the SS workshop for several years testified after the war:
From May or June 1942, in this clothing camp of Lublin, furs and coats of Jews who were in the extermination camps of Belzec, Treblinka, and Sobibor were disinfected and sent to Germany. These articles were brought by freight trains, unloaded by the (Ukrainian) auxiliaries and later by the working Jews, disinfected, and loaded again in the freight cars. I was in charge of a group of twenty to thirty Jewish women who were trained as disinfectors….The clothing was divided according to men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing. Then it was subdivided again; outer and under clothing, shoes, etc. Where these sorted clothes were sent I don’t know exactly. I once saw on the freight cars the names of the train stations: Berlin, Glogau, Breslau, and Hirschberg.[152]
The movement of goods from the Reinhard camps to Lublin is supported by several documents. On 16 April 1943 for instance, when Dutch Jews were being transported to the Sobibor camp a wide variety of personal goods (i.e. 5000 combs, 1000 toothbrushes, 6400 clippers, 12800 spectacles) were brought to “Bekleidungswerke, Lublin, Chopinstr.(asse) 27” by SS-Sonderkommando Sobibor.[153] The same location in Lublin had also sorted out some 100,000 pairs of shoes in January 1943 as well.[154]
As shown earlier, August Frank’s September 26, 1942 order to the Aktion Reinhard staff included instructions for the removal of gold teeth from Jews (see the second quoted instruction). This process has been confirmed by the testimony of several witnesses. In SS-Unterscharführer Schluch’s description of the exterminations at Belzec, he relates that after the gassing “the bodies were dragged out of the gas chambers and inspected by a dentist, who removed finger-rings and gold teeth.”[155]  SS-Oberscharführer Heinrich Matthes also admitted that in the Upper Camp (extermination area) of Treblinka “there were also working Jews who had to break out the gold teeth from the corpses.”[156] SS-Unterscharführer Gustav Münzberger also provided a description of the process in Treblinka:
I know that Matthes (who was in charge of Camp III), at the end of each day when a transport arrived, used to take the gold to the Lower Camp. This relates to gold teeth and valuables of gold that had been found on the corpses. This gold was brought in a small case.[157]
A T4 courier[158] took cigarettes and mail to the camps[159] and then returned to Berlin with cases of valuables from some of the gassed victims.[160] Bolender testified in 1965 that Sobibor personnel were unhappy about the transfer of Jewish loot back to Berlin.[161] This loot included gold from the teeth of victims. The judgment against T4 finance officer Friedrich Robert Lorent stated:
Ultimately, it was the central economic department that was responsible for registering money and valuables that T4 couriers brought to Berlin, and in at least one instance, that the defendant himself brought back from extermination camps in the East. The defendant stated that the value of this (booty) was approximately 180,000 Reichsmarks in 1942 and consisted mostly of dental gold, but also included coins and jewellery. He therefore brought objects to the Criminal Technical Institute [KTI] where the dental gold was resmelted and subsequently sold to Degussa.[162]
Lorent admitted in his trial that he visited the AR camps in June 1942 but claimed that he had written a report to Brack expressing his disgust at “the method practiced in the Polish camps”. Among the documents that was used by the court to convict Lorent was a letter dated December 1944 returning unused carbon monoxide gasholders to I.G. Farben.[163] The delivery of gas canisters from I.G. Farben’s BASF site in Ludwigshafen has also been documented.[164] Lorent is thus a key link in the evidential chain that leads from gassing and robbery in T4 to the same practices in AR. Also, in 1966 Bolender’s ex-wife testified that Bolender had brought home 'goldbruecken' from Sobibor.[165]
Pohl’s earlier mentioned February 1943 report also lists the delivery to the Reich Ministry of Economics of a freight car with 3,000 kg of women’s hair.[166] In response, Mattogno relies upon a document specific to the Sachsenhausen camp to assume (without any direct evidence) that “these 3,000 kg of hair…was therefore the harvest of a series of haircuts of the prisoners of Auschwitz and Lublin in 1942.”[167] Unfortunately for Mattogno, not only is this supposition without evidence, it is also directly refuted by it. There does exist a Wehrmacht invoice recording the delivery of 400 kg of hair from Treblinka to the Paul Reimann Company in Friedland on November 21, 1942.[168] Thus, the notion that hair of Jewish deportees was shorn at the Reinhard camps and delivered elsewhere is a documented fact.
The shearing of female Jewish deportees prior to their murder in the gas chambers was a later feature for the Reinhard camps. Following the re-organization of Treblinka, Franz Stangl testified about the new procedure:
One day we received a disinfecting machine without having been told what it was for. I asked about it in Lublin. I was told in reply that from now on we were to cut the women’s hair. The hair should be cleaned and packed in bags. As no one was familiar with the disinfection machine, I believe I asked someone from Lublin to come and show us how to operate this device. I believe Wirth himself even came and organized the thing to show how it should run with scissors and fumigation. I still recall that from Lublin they explained that the hair was to be used for submarine insulation.[169] Perhaps it was Wirth himself who told me.[170] 
By the time of Chil Rajchman’s [aka Henryk Reichman’s] arrival in Treblinka in early-mid October, women’s hair was being cut prior to the gassings.[171] Related to this subject is Abraham Bomba, who has selectively criticized by deniers for his 1979 statement on hair-cutting in Treblinka (for the documentary Shoah)[172], and who offered a much more coherent statement in the 1960s which no Revisionist has ever bothered to check.[173]
Property plunder also appears in testimonies concerning Chelmno. Biebow’s associate Rudolf Kramp stated in 1945 that he had taken two leather suitcases to Chelmno Sonderkommando head Bothmann, who had filled them with looted property and took them to Greiser.[174]
The documents and several eyewitness statements converge on several aspects of the plunder of deportee property, including hair, clothing, and gold teeth. In and of themselves, these evidentiary converges do not conclusively prove homicidal gassings at the Reinhard camps. There is a possibility of an innocuous explanation for the transfer of this material, but unfortunately for MGK, all the available evidence only points to a more sinister interpretation, one which fits into the wider picture of the evidence so often ignored or distorted by MGK regarding Aktion Reinhard. These areas also serve to confirm the reliability of witness statements describing such procedures, and all of whom directly relate the property plunder issues directly to homicidal gassings of their Jewish owners. 
While serving to indirectly confirm mass gassings at the Reinhard camps, the plunder issue also has caused a slight division among the beliefs of MGK in their few brief general references relevant to the subject. In their original account, Treblinka, while no where explicitly stating so, Mattogno and Graf suggest that Treblinka housed delousing facilities used for clothing,[175] presumably also including the clothing of the Jewish deportees, which were then given back to the deportees, providing no details on when or how the clothes were deloused, and when or how they were presented back to the arrivals. In Sobibór, a brief mention is made by MGK similarly suggesting that the deportees’ clothing was deloused and given back to the arrivals following some vague and unspecified hygienic measures.[176] On the same page (!) in Sobibór, a different claim is held that following the undressing of Jews, prisoner clothes were issued to wear in supposed work camps in the East.[177] Thus, not only do MGK take no account of the 2000 railcars of textile goods confiscated during Aktion Reinhard, they also fail to coherently explain the process by which deportees were presented with (their or another’s) clothing.
Given the huge amount of clothing taken from deportees during the Reinhard, in light of MGK’s resettlement hypothesis are we to believe that Jews travelled to the east naked?

[141] In the Aktion Reinhard collection of English publications by MGK (Treblinka, Bełżec, and Sobibór), less than four pages are devoted to this subject: Treblinka, pp.157-160.
[142] Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, pp.154-164.
[143] Frank order, 26.9.1942, NO-724; Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, pp.154-155; Rückerl, NS-Vernichtungslager, pp.109-111.
[144] M&G, Treblinka, p.160. It would be entertaining to hear MGK’s explanation for how the plunder of golden teeth from deported Jews’s mouth figures into a supposed maximum allowance of belongings per deportee, or even glasses.MG, feeling the need to toss any possible idea that might stick and dismiss the issue, also oddly point out that there is no proof that the clothes did not originate from Treblinka I, hoping that a small labor camp could explain a massive amount of recovered goods.  
[145] Testimonies cited earlier for the various camps have already highlighted the occurrence of undressing prior to the gassing in the Reinhard camps.
[146] Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, p.160.
[147] Pohl to Himmler, 6.2.1943, NO-1257. Also available at http://nizkor.org/ftp.py?camps/auschwitz/documents/no-1257. Mattogno ignores the fact that “rags” was a term for clothing too poor to reuse.
[148] This assumption is not supported by any evidence or reasoning on the part of Mattogno.
[149] 4024-PS (IMT Vol. XXXIV, pp.59, 84 and 89; online copy: http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Military_Law/pdf/NT_Vol-XXXIV.pdf)
[150] Oscar Strawczynski, Ten Months in Treblinka: October 5, 1942-August 2, 1943 (1989), p.XVI.
[151] Krzepicki, ‘Eighteen Days in Treblinka,’ p.91.
[152] Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, p. 159; Sobibor-Bolender, Band 8, pp.1556-1557.
[153] SS-Sonderkommando Sobibor an die Bekleidungsweke Lublin, 16.4.43, AGK NTN 144, p.109.
[154] Abt IVa, Betr. Schuhe u. Stiefel, 13.1.43, gez. Wippern, AGK NTN 144, p.108.
[155] Karl Alfred Schluch, 11.11.1961, BAL 162/208 AR-Z 252/59, Bd. 8, pp.1512-1513; cf. Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, p.71.
[156] Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, p.121; Treblinka-Franz, Band 10, pp.2053-2055.
[157] Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, p.158; Treblinka-Franz, Band 10, p.2088.
[158] Friedlander, Origins of Nazi Genocide, p.298, citing interrogation of T4 courier Erich Fettke, 2.9.65, and letter of Irmfried Eberl (Sobibor commader) to Fraeulein Dittmann (Bernburg), 26.4.42 GStA Frankfurt, Eberl Akten, II/166, 7: 86-87
[159] Burleigh, Death and Deliverance, p.232, citing interrogation of Heinrich Gley, 4.12.62. ZSL ‘Euthanasia’, Ga-Go.
[160] Burleigh, Death and Deliverance, p.232, citing interrogation of Robert Lorent, 18.10.65. ZSL ‘Euthanasia’, Li-Lz.
[161] Burleigh, Death and Deliverance, p.232, citing interrogation of Kurt Bolender, 8.7.65. ZSL ‘Euthanasia’, Bi-Bq.
[162] Independent Commission of Switzerland – Second World War, Switzerland and Gold Transactions in the Second World War, Interim Report, May 1998, p. 32, citing Frankfurt state court, judgment and sentence, Hans-Joachim Becker and Friedrich Robert Lorent, 27.5.70., Ks 1/69 (GStA), p.115.
[163] De Mildt, In The Name of the People, pp.78-94, citing JuNSV Lfd. Nr. 733.
[164] Friedlander, The Origins of Nazi Genocide, p.331 n.65, citing correspondence between the KTI, the KdF, and IG Farbenindustrie. DÖW, file E18370/1, and BAK, R58/1059.
[165] Schelvis, Sobibor, p.85, citing Margarete Bolender testimony, 15.8.66, Hagen, ZStA.Do-Doppel
[166] Pohl to Himmler, 6.2.1943, NO-1257: “women's hair 1 car  3,000 kg”
[167] M&G, Treblinka, p.159.
[168] Cf. Sergey Romanov, ‘Ugly Voice is Completely Ignorant About Documentary Evidence, HC blog, 6.7.2006. While MGK might wish to explain this document as due to the hair-cutting of the Treblinka labor camp, it is worth noting that Mattogno highlights a “large transport” of hair from the Sachsenhausen camp as 275 kg. MGK cannot expect anyone to seriously maintain that a much smaller labor camp was able to produce nearly 50% more hair in a cut than a larger concentration camp.  
[169] Note should be made of Glücks’ August 6, 1942 directive to several concentration camps ordering the hair of concentration camp prisoners was to be put to use if it met a specified length requirement. The hair was to be made into industrial felt, or spun into yarn. Gluck specified the use of the hair as follows: “Out of combed and cut hair of women, hair-yarn socks for U-boat crews are to be made, as well as hair-felt stockings for employees of the Reich railways.” USSR-511; IMT Vol. XX, p.353.
[170] Vernehmung Franz Stangl., 11.7.1967, BAL B162/208 AR-Z 230/59, Bd. 13, pp.3274-5; cfRückerl, NS-Vernichtungslager, pp.222-3.
[171] Protokol, Henryk Reichman, 12.11.45, Lodz, AGK NTN 69, p.29R
[172] For more on the selective criticism of Bomba, see Nick Terry, ‘Bradley Smith’s selective citation of Abraham Bomba on Treblinka’, Holocaust Controversies, 24.7.06, http://holocaustcontroversies.blogspot.com/2006/07/bradley-smiths-selective-citation-of.html.
[173] Vernehmung Abraham Bomba, 8.5.1963, StA Hamburg 147 Js 7/72, Bd.49, pp.9492-7.
[174] Epstein, Model Nazi, pp.259-60, citing Protokoll  über Zeugenvernehmung, Rudolf Kramp, 1 July 1945, BA- Ludwigsburg, AR-Z 141/88, Vol. III, p.456.
[175] M&G, Treblinka, p.157.
[176] MGK, Sobibór, p.80 n.171, where they suggest according to Chaim Engel that the clothes “were picked up to be disinfested and then distributed to newly deloused deportees.” This inference is based upon a faulty reading of Engel’s statement, which states that members from Camp III (the extermination camp) “came sometimes over to our Lager (camp II, with the sorting barracks) to bring the clothes or bring things like that." While Engel is describing members from the extermination camp bringing discovered belongings back to camp II (“came over to bring”), MGK incorrectly read this as members from Camp III coming to Camp II and picking up clothing to bring back to Camp III in order to be deloused. One must ask then why Jews undressed in Camp II instead of Camp III, where all the delousing supposedly happened according to MGK?  
[177] MGK, Sobibór, p.80. This argument originates from a reliance on a 1999 interview with Sobibor survivor Ber Freiberg, nearly sixty years after the Freiberg’s work in the camp. MGK marvel at how this detail has never been discussed by any other Reinhard witness, including Freiberg himself prior to 1999; unfortunately for MGK, this is likely due to the distortion of Freiberg’s memory so long after the actual event. It is worth mentioning that the witness was 72 at the time of the interview, and could not be expected to recount accurate details. It is also hypocritical for MGK to rely upon something only supported by a single witness’ statement, but dismiss other events with a multitude of witnesses, including homicidal gassings. It can also be expected that any widespread issuing of prisoner garb to the hundreds of thousands of Jewish deportees would have manifested itself through some type of invoice or financial bill, but no such document makes any relevant references.   

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