Monday, July 27, 2015

Natzweiler Gassing Victims (Warning: Graphic Content)

This photo shows a photograph of Menachem Taffel, who had been gassed at Natzweiler. His body was one of 86 found at Reichsuniversität Strasbourg upon its liberation, whereupon autopsies were carried out by Professor Camille Simonin.

Researcher Hans-Joachim Lang describes in this article (p.378) how Taffel was identified:
At the end of the 1960s, when the district attorney of Frankfurt initiated inquiries into Bruno Beger and Hans Fleischhacker, the former concentration camp prisoner, Hermann Langbein, saw a photograph that had been taken during the autopsies among the collected evidence. This photograph depicted a body with a number on his left forearm (Fig. 6). With the support of the archives in Auschwitz he succeeded in identifying the dead man as Max Menachem Taffel. Menachem Taffel, a Jew born in Galicia, was last known to have been a milkman who had lived with his family in
Berlin. From there he was deported to Auschwitz along with his wife and his 14-year old daughter on March 12, 1943. Apparently no one knew that the autopsy protocols had been preserved and thus Menachem Taffel remained for decades the only victim, for whom the prisoner’s number had also been associated with a name.
This finding converged with documentation presented in the Nuremberg case against Rudolf Brandt. On February 9th, 1942, Sievers had written to Brandt regarding the procedure to be used for obtaining human skulls for experimentation:
Following the subsequently induced death of the Jew, whose head must not be damaged, he will separate the head from the torso and will forward it to its point of destination in a preserving fluid in a well-sealed tin container especially made for this purpose [source]
On June 21st, 1943, Sievers advised Eichmann on how these Jews would be procured from Auschwitz:
With reference to your letter of 25 September 1942, IV B 4 3576/42 g 1488, and the personal talks which have taken place in the meantime on the above matter, you are informed that the coworker in this office who was charged with the execution of the above-mentioned special task, SS Hauptsturmfuehrer Dr. Bruno Beger, ended his work in the Auschwitz concentration camp on 15 June 1943 because of the existing danger of infectious diseases.

A total of 115 persons were worked on, 79 of whom were Jews, 2 Poles, 4 Asiatics, and 30 Jewesses. At present, these prisoners are separated according to sex and each group is accommodated in a hospital building of the Auschwitz concentration camp and are in quarantine.

For further processing of the selected persons an immediate transfer to the Natzweiler concentration camp is now imperative, this must be accelerated in view of the danger of infectious diseases in Auschwitz. Enclosed is a list containing the names of the selected persons.

It is requested that the necessary directives be issued.
Since with the transfer of the prisoners to Natzweiler the danger of spreading diseases exists, it is requested that an immediate shipment of disease-free and clean prisoners’ clothing for 80 men and 30 women be ordered sent from Natzweiler to Auschwitz. 
 Evidence of the gassing includes the "Bautagebuch" [building diary] shown here and Kramer's interrogation of 26.7.45 and deposition of 6.12.45 [here], although Pressac states here that only the deposition is credible. Evidence of the gas chamber itself is here.

There can therefore be no doubt that Taffel, shown above, had suffered an 'induced' death, and that gas was used presumably to ensure no damage to the skull.

Update July 29th at 4.27pm EST in reply to BroI's comments of earlier the same day at this thread:

1) Upon closer reading, Pressac's claims about the 26.7.45 interrogation of Kramer may be based on an incomplete translation used by Pressac. Below is Lang's translation and reference of the key passage (from this article p.377). In infer that the part I have bolded below explains the precautions Kramer claims he took against self-asphyxiation. I don't claim that there are no discrepancies between this account and 6.12.45:
[Testimony of the Lagerkommandant Joseph Kramer – HHStA, Abt. 461, SB II, Nr. 10/2].

With the aid of several SS-men I completely undressed (the 15 women) and pushed them into the gas chamber. (. . .) When the doors closed, they began to scream. I (then) introduced a certain amount of salts into the room through a pipe that had been inserted to the right and above the peephole. Then I sealed the opening of the pipe with a cork which was attached to its end. This cork was equipped with a metal pipe. With this pipe the salt and water was thrown into the opening of the chamber (. . .). I illuminated the inside of the room (. . .) and observed (. . .) what was happening through the peephole. I saw that the women continued to breath for about half a minute before they fell to the floor. After I had turned on the ventilation within the chimney, I opened the door. I found the women lying lifeless on the floor [A.a.O.]. 

2) The 86 tattoo numbers were written down in August 1943 and the list was found by Lang in an archive, as he states here:
When in the early morning of August 12, 1943 the first of four groups of gassed victims from Natzweiler arrived at the Anatomy-Institute of Strasbourg, Henry Henrypierre suspected unnatural deaths. Several unmistakable signs troubled the trained pharmacist extremely. All corpses had numbers on their left forearm. Although he could not explain their meaning except as an unchangeable mark, he attached enough importance to them to record them for a still uncertain moment of truth. He secretly wrote them down and presented the note or the notes later to the investigators. A copy of the note was able to have a determining influence on the direction of my inquiries. The archival finding though, did not reveal direct clues concerning the identity of the numbered persons. 
Lang found the list under ref U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum 1997.A. 0197, Reel 2, Departmental Archives Bas Rhin in Strasbourg Records, 1941–1944.

I believe that this is a scan of the list.

3) The tattoos on the 16 dismembered corpses were recorded in the autopsy protocols according to Lang  in this article p.378:
The autopsy protocols have been preserved [Copies have been preserved in the Zentralen Stelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen in Ludwigsburg. (Copies of the military court in Metz on the criminal trial as the proceedings in the concentration camp at Natzweiler–Struthof. File 1: Rapport d’Expertise de MM. Les professeurs et docteurs Simonin, Piédelévre, Fourcade)]. From these it can be elucidated that Hirt’s coworkers had forgotten to remove the concentration camp numbers of 13 of the 16 cadavers and on three of the separated arms. In this way, 16 concentration camp numbers were preserved within the protocols. The French physicians were unaware of the meaning of the numbers, and even if they had been, it would have been impossible for them to use the numbers to discover the identity of the murdered. The complete bodies and body parts were buried in the North cemetery of the again French Strasbourg in the autumn of 1945 and, in 1951, moved to the local Jewish cemetery – but, as it appeared, forever in the anonymity of a mass grave.

I think you can contact Lang directly here.

10 comments:

The Black Rabbit of Inlé said...

HARRISON: This photo shows an autopsy photograph of Menachem Taffel, who had been gassed at Natzweiler.

Eugène Helffer, Head of investigations at the Strasbourg police department, said they were "prises par la Police Française aussitôt après la libération de Strasbourg à l'Institut d'Anatomie de l'Université de Strasbourg" in his November 16, 1946, covering certificate which was forward to Nuremberg with 21 photos of the corpses and other documents relating to the case. (See NO 807).

Some of the photos—including that one of Taffel—were clearly taken in the room the were allegedly found; you can see the lid and tiled-front of the vat in your Taffel photo for heaven's sake Harrison!

Presumably the autopsies, whether conducted by Simonin or by Professor René Fabre, took place where they were found: the Strasbourg AI—they could hardly have moved them to a much more suitable place.



Your source: Miloslav Bilik, claims of one photo: "This corpse is in the middle of undergoing an autopsy. The forensic doctor made what one might call "slashes"[?] in making deep incisions in the skin, in order to find latent deep bruises, not visible on the surface of the skin, showing any brutality before death. This image solidly proves that autopsies were performed on the victims of the camp of Struthof."

It's certainly bizarre that Bilik felt he needed to appeal to a photo for solid proof that autopsies really took place!



And why is it, Harrison, that none of tattoo numbers of any of the other of the 16 (sometimes said to be 17) whole corpses found in Strasbourg AI are known? The caption for photo no. 13 in NO 807 states that the tattoos were removed only when the corpses were "defleshed".

Why were the tattoo numbers not recorded by Professor Camille Simonin, the man you claim carried out the autopsies?



HARRISON: On February 29th, 1942, Sievers had written to Brandt regarding the procedure to be used for obtaining human skulls for experimentation:

You really need to stop relying on the internet for everything Harrison. Whoever made that note on your link got the date wrong. Siever's letter was dated February 9th.



HARRISON: On June 23rd, 1943, Sievers advised Eichmann on how these Jews would be procured from Auschwitz:

That one's your typo; the letter's dated June 21st.



HARRISON: Evidence of the gassing includes the "Bautagebuch" [building diary] shown here and Kramer's interrogation [here].

Let's be absolutely clear here; you've cited "Kramer's interrogation" (dated: July 26, 1945) and not "Kramer's deposition" (dated: December 6, 1945).

Therefore, I leave the final word to Jean-Claude Pressac (in a booklet you've just cited an online version of):

The way in which he [Kramer] gassed a number of people, as confessed by him on the 26 July 1945 to Major Jadin cannot be considered credible. He would have ended up gassing himself. (The Struthof Album, p.5)

In the context of the years 1945-1950, one can understand the deliberate selection of such a reply by a concentration camp commandant. But when 40 years later, historians, who should remain dispassionate, and who have an obligation to remove all ambiguity regarding the workings of the Struthof gas chamber, continue to reproduce Kramer’s first deposition, without any'explanation [sic], then one has every right to question their abilities and the historical value of their writings—especially if they still mention the tourist prattle of crematorium guides about a "vivisection" table and shower water for SS-men heated by the oven. (Ibid., p.10)

The Black Rabbit of Inlé said...

HARRISON: Researcher Hans-Joachim Lang describes in this article (p.378) how Taffel was identified in the 1960s:

1971 you mean. Pressac states that ICC informed the Frankfurt court of Taffel's identity in a letter dated January 1, 1971. (p.16) Langbein wouldn't have sat on that information for over a year.

Jonathan Harrison said...

Thanks for the corrections. I will amend accordingly.

Jonathan Harrison said...

Bilik's comment on Kramer, from the link in the article:

"however, we do not follow Pressac as to the fact that the second testimony would be more valid than the first, Kramer being disgusted by the lack of honor and the treason of his SS comrades who betrayed him by spilling the beans: it seems to us even more probable that Kramer willingly introduced at each time several less credible details to be able to pretend later that his sworn statements were forced.

Unfortunately for him, his statements match up so well in the essentials with other testimonies and the recovered documents, that the small differences do not suffice to entertain the least doubt on the truth of the matter."

The Black Rabbit of Inlé said...

I see that you choose to clip the first part of your quoted Bilik sentence, i.e. "It is evident that Kramer lies on several points to introduce doubt about the validity of his sworn statements;"

And a part you did quote:
"it seems to us even more probable that Kramer willingly introduced at each time several less credible details to be able to pretend later that his sworn statements were forced."

That's rather far fetched don't you think? Claiming Kramer threw in a few nuggets of disinformation, so that once a fee man, he'd be able to point them out—perhaps to early Holocaust deniers—as proof that he was tortured!

Why didn't he also use this tactic in his later confession r.e. Birkenau, do you believe, Harrison? Considering it was the same interrogator, Major Jadin, who was the man who finally got Kramer to admit to gassings at Birkenau.

Incidentally, I duly noted that you dodged all my questions in my original post. Here they are once again:

BRoI: And why is it, Harrison, that none of tattoo numbers of any of the other of the 16 (sometimes said to be 17) whole corpses found in Strasbourg AI are known? The caption for photo no. 13 in NO 807 states that the tattoos were removed only when the corpses were "defleshed".

Why were the tattoo numbers not recorded by Professor Camille Simonin, the man you claim carried out the autopsies?

Jonathan Harrison said...

I have updated the original article to address these issues

The Black Rabbit of Inlé said...

JH: Upon closer reading, Pressac's claims about the 26.7.45 interrogation of Kramer may be based on an incomplete translation used by Pressac.

The interrogation transcript is in French. Pressac's native tongue! So you've made an amusing gaff.

See pages 72 + 73: http://www.holocaust-history.org/klarsfeld/Struthof/T072.shtml

My transcription of the segment you placed in bold and, bizarrely, believe Pressac hasn't seen:

"J'introduisis, après avoir fermé la porte, une certaine quantité de sel dans un entonnoir placé au dessous et à droite du regard. En même temps, je versai une certaine quantité d'eau qui, ainsi que les sels, tomba dans l'excavation située à l'interieur de la chambre à gaz au bas du regard. Puis, je fermai l'orifice de l'entonnoir à l'aide d'un robinet qui était adapté dans le bas de cet entonnoir, prolongé lui-même par un tube en métal. Ce tube en métal conduisit le sel et l'eau dans l'excavation intérieure de la chambre dont je viens de vous parler."

Jan Green-Krotki's translation with Pressac's bracketed note:

"I placed a fixed quantity of the salts in a funnel attached below and to the right of the peep-hole [a glass covered observation aperture]. At the same time, I poured in a fixed amount of water which flowed, together with the salts, into a pit made inside the gas chamber under the peep-hole. Then I closed the opening of the funnel by means of a tap, fitted into the bottom of the funnel, which ran into a metal pipe. This metal pipe took the salts and the water into the pit inside the gas chamber,"
http://www.holocaust-history.org/klarsfeld/Struthof/T031.shtml

Lang's translation (according to you):

"I (then) introduced a certain amount of salts into the room through a pipe that had been inserted to the right and above the peephole. Then I sealed the opening of the pipe with a cork which was attached to its end. This cork was equipped with a metal pipe. With this pipe the salt and water was thrown into the opening of the chamber [...]."

(whose ellipses are they in the quoted Lang text, yours or Lang's?)

Despite the variations, Lang was obviously translating the same text as Pressac used. I don't speak French so I won't comment on the translations or judge whose is the more accurate. But I have shown that your gambit about Pressac's using an "incomplete translation" is complete rubbish.

The Black Rabbit of Inlé said...

Thanks for the info re the tattoos.

Jonathan Harrison said...

The ellipses are Lang's. Note that Pressac also cites Weydert's testimony (p.29), so it's not just a case of choosing Kramer (July) versus Kramer (December). My gaffe on the French source accepted, that still leaves open the possibility of communication errors between Kramer and Jadin. If Pressac is correct that Kramer in July gave an account that was technically impossible, we still have to explain Kramer's motive. If you claim torture, why would the torturers come up with an account that was technically unfeasible?

In any case, the Kramer statements are minor detail compared to the documents, which in Pressac start here:

http://www.holocaust-history.org/klarsfeld/Struthof/T041.htm

Jeff said...

I have a third option: Kramer was suppressing a unpleasant memory and recalling it was difficult for him when being first questioned. Or he was reluctant to express what had happened, felt cornered, and gave a muddled, half-assed description of the event.

Only months later, with his life at stake did he gather the memories together, and give an accurate recollection. Just a theory.