miércoles, 31 de diciembre de 2014

Racial Hygiene and the Third Reich

What did Racial Hygiene really mean in the Third Reich? Did doctors carried it on freely? #RacialHygiene #ThirdReich #NaziDoctors
Don't miss my article at Anachronia  

miércoles, 24 de diciembre de 2014

Ambler resident recalls fleeing Nazi Germany, her father's imprisonment in Buchenwald

It was November 1938, less than a year before the Nazis invaded Poland, and 11-year-old Ellen Nussbaum was startled awake at 5 a.m. to the sound of two gestapo officers knocking on the front door of her parents’ home in Berlin, Germany.
When her parents finally opened the door — themselves having just woken up — the officers informed them that Ellen’s father, Leo Nussbaum, was under arrest.

“They had no reason for the arrest that my mother could find out,” remembers Ellen, now 87. But Leo, a prominent business owner, knew the score. He had committed no crime, true, but the Nussbaums were a Jewish family living in a rapidly changing Germany.

Reason played no role in this.

Still groggy with sleep, Leo “asked to be allowed to freshen up,” Ellen recalls. “So, one of the officers stood in the bathroom with him, his back against the window. The other officer stood outside with his back against the door. It seemed like a lot of people had jumped out of windows [to escape arrests] at that point. They wanted to prevent it.”

As the officers escorted Leo from the building, he called out to his family, “I have a cousin in Louisville, Kentucky. I don’t know his address. See if you can contact him to help me.”

“No name,” Ellen says, “no address.”

It would be months before she saw her father again.

That was 76 years ago, but Ellen remembers it like it was yesterday. In fact, those few short early morning moments would shape the rest of her life. Some months later, she would leave Berlin with her mother, Gertrude — and would never return.

Sitting on the couch in her quaint apartment in Artman assisted living facility, Ellen shows no sign of the turmoil she experienced during World War II. In fact, she’s all class, poised and postured, smiling tenderly in a spotless, cherry red cardigan, with a string of pearls around her neck.

Her banter is witty, her insights bright.

The only hint of the harrowing ordeals she endured can be found in her densely dark, melancholy eyes and the way she nervously offers another cup of coffee when the conversation turns too serious.

Now a published author who has penned five nonfiction books — including two biographies on Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel — and countless autobiographical short stories, Ellen has spent a lot of time poring over the events of her early life, perhaps looking for some meaning in it all.

“I am really amazed at the process of the mind,” she says, her hands folded neatly on her lap. “You put things away — you think — and then something sets it off again,” memories come flooding back. “I’m beginning to think everything is somehow connected.”

She comes back to this often, the idea of connectedness, the thought “that everything that happens in life is meant to, maybe.” Though, she admits, “some things are hard to accept.”

Following his arrest, Leo Nussbaum was taken to Buchenwald concentration camp, where he remained for 11 weeks and served as a hard laborer in a rock quarry. The work was brutal, and later in life, the conditions of the camp would cost Leo his legs — not to mention his finances.

It wasn’t long before the family discovered “the purpose of arresting [Leo] was to get him to sign over his business to his non-Jewish partner,” Ellen says. Such arrests were commonplace during the time, a symptom of a Nazi movement termed Aryanization, defined as a systematic removal of Jewish citizens from business life in Germany.

Leo’s business partner, Ellen says, “knew it was all wrong,” but there was nothing he could do about it. During the months that Leo was in Buchenwald, the partner “tried to help my mother and me, sending us a little money because we had no funds after my father was arrested. He was very decent to us.”

But life was dire without Leo, and matters were getting worse by the day. His final words to her still haunting Gertrude, it was clear the only hope for the Nussbaum family was to get word to the cousin in Louisville — a man no one had ever met; a man no one even knew how to reach.

As an act of outright desperation, Gertrude “sat down and wrote a letter to the mayor of Louisville,” Ellen recalls. It was a shot in the dark, but Ellen’s mother wrote the letter, mailed it and hoped for a reply.

“The mayor,” it turns out, “was German born,” Ellen says, “and he happened to play cards with our relative every Thursday night in a well-known deli in Louisville. The next time they [played cards] the mayor pulled out this letter and said, ‘This came for you. I didn’t open it. Take a look.’

“The mayor was the connection that would help us get out [of Germany].”

Acting fast, the relative, Karl, immediately sent papers and affidavits claiming responsibility for Ellen’s family — Leo included. Gertrude promptly took the paperwork to the American consulate, but was met with yet more difficulty.

“The people at the American consulate were very nasty,” Ellen says. “I always thought they looked down on the people who were trying to get out so desperately. They made all kinds of conditions. They told my mother, ‘In order for your husband to receive a passport or a visa, he has to appear in person.’ And my mother said, ‘That’s a little difficult since he’s in Buchenwald.’”

In the end, it seems, it all came down to money.

“My mother found an American lawyer,” Ellen says, “gave him a heap of money and bribed someone at the consulate.”

Leo was out of Buchenwald in a day.

However, it wasn’t a pleasant exit. His keepers made sure to instill lasting fear in Leo.

“They released him,” Ellen recalls, “and said, ‘Don’t think you’re getting away from us. We’ll find you no matter where you go.’”

Within 24 hours of leaving Buchenwald, Leo darted to his home in Berlin, packed everything he could carry and high-tailed it for Antwerp, Belgium, where he caught a ride on a ship called the Europa. The next time Ellen saw her father was when she and Gertrude reunited with him in Louisville.

Fear of the Gestapo still hanging over him, one of the first things Leo did in Kentucky was to choose a new name for his family. He opened up a phone book, searched through the listings under the letter N and, seemingly at random, chose the surname Norman.

“He liked the name,” she says, “so he changed his name from Nussbaum to Norman. It was funny — my mother would say only criminals change their name.”

From there, and thanks to the generosity of Karl, the Norman family began a safer, albeit humbler life in America.

“[Karl] was tremendous,” Ellen says. His family “arranged for us to have a house that we paid off. They were wonderful to us. When the grandchildren got new clothes, [I] did, too. They gave me music lessons, voice lessons.”

Leo tried to build his business again — in Germany, Ellen says, he sold construction machinery — but the competition was stiff in Louisville, and health complications made matters worse.

“He lost both legs as a result of the rock business in Buchenwald,” Ellen explains. A mixture of diabetes, arteriosclerosis and the hardships endured in the labor camp “took a lot out of him. He had to have both legs amputated in Louisville.”

For a moment a tender silence takes hold of the small apartment in Artman.

“The worst thing,” Ellen says, finally, “was coming here and seeing the wheelchairs again. It brings back memories. And now my husband is in one, too.”

She offers some more coffee.

Time went on. The Norman family adjusted to life in America. Ellen attended the University of Louisville and got a job working as a clerk for NBC, first in Kentucky and then in New York, where she met her husband and took the surname Stern.
After time, she started writing about her experiences.

Some of her short stories caught the attention of the Jewish Publication Society, which asked her to write a juvenile biography on Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis.

The book met relative success, and the JPS asked Ellen if she’d be interested in writing a biography on Elie Wiesel, author of the moving, iconic Holocaust memoir “Night.” At the time, Ellen was working as a religious school secretary. She wasn’t sure she was qualified to write about Wiesel, wasn’t even sure he would want her to.

But then, one day, she received a phone call at work: “‘This is Elie Wiesel. I like the way you write. Will you come and see me so we can talk?’

“I’ve never been the same since,” she says.

In Wiesel, Ellen found someone who understood the mark left on her by the events of World War II. She admits she felt that her experiences were slight compared to his — Wiesel famously survived imprisonment and unspeakable brutality in Auschwitz and other concentration camps — but the two expatriates found comfort in one another.

“I went to New York to interview Wiesel,” Ellen recalls, “and for over two hours we talked about our fathers, who had said we’d never leave Europe ... Wiesel of course had much more horrendous experiences [than me]; he was in the camp, he lost everybody. But there was something there like a homecoming. We understood where we came from, had an understanding of each other.”

Still, for Ellen, humility reigned. She couldn’t fathom writing about such a man, so prolific, so brilliant — and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate to boot. Just knowing Wiesel was monumental. But to chronicle his life?

“I said this to him: ‘How can I understand you?’ Here I was, a reformed Jew,” who still felt like that same little girl pushing a doll carriage around the streets of Berlin. “‘You come from a totally different milieu. How can I write about you?’

“He said, ‘You can find me in my books.’”

So Ellen read his books — all 35 of them. More interviews and correspondences ensued, and when all was said and done, Ellen wrote two biographies on Wiesel, the first simply titled “Elie Wiesel”; the second, “Elie Wiesel: Witness for Life.” During a trip in Washington, D.C., Wiesel lost the manuscript to one of those biographies on a train, Ellen says. Thankfully, she had an extra copy.

“The nicest thing,” she says of knowing the author, “is he has stayed a friend. Sometimes you write about people and they don’t like it. But he just wrote me a greeting for the Jewish New Year.”

It is now time, Ellen says, to put history behind her: “I don’t want to write about the past anymore.”

The Artman resident — whose last published work, “The French Physician’s Boy,” was an account of the 1793 yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia — is ready to focus on the here and now.

“I felt I’d done enough,” she says. “And the world has since then [World War II] gotten into different shapes, unfortunately. So I would just like to be on a more positive track.”

Though, she admits with a laugh, “I haven’t reached it quite yet.”

Leo Norman passed away in 1965, but not, Ellen adds, before meeting his two grandchildren, Lawrence and Michael, who both now live in Montgomery County and visit their mother often. Ellen’s husband, Harold, is never far from her side.

And as for the past that she’s ready to put behind her?

“It was awful,” she says. “We didn’t know what was happening to the rest of the family [back home in Berlin]. And when we found out, it was bad. Oh God.”

Even so, Ellen Stern can find silver linings in almost any memory — “[life’s] been pretty darn good since then; we’re darn lucky and blessed” — and her faith in mankind, though tested, has never wavered.

“People are not all bad,” she says, simply. “People are not all bad.”

Source: http://www.mainlinemedianews.com/articles/2014/12/22/region/doc549427e821770945073324.txt?viewmode=fullstory

domingo, 21 de diciembre de 2014

Edward Mosberg, born in 1926, is a sole survivor out of sixteen members of his family of the Holocaust

Edward Mosberg spoke to the Fifth Grade students at Eastlake School on Thursday, December 19. Eastlake Prinicipal Mr. Mark Gray, Dr. Nancy Gigante, Assistant Superintendent/Chief Academic Officer, Mr. Juan Cruz, Director of Secondary Education and Parsippany-Troy Mayor James Barberio was in attendance.

Mosberg, born in 1926, is a sole survivor out of sixteen members of his family of the Holocaust he gave the testimony of his experience. He survived the Karakow Ghetto, Plaszow, Mauthausen and Linz Concentration Camps. Cecile, his wife, survived the Krakow Ghetto, Mieiec, Dubienka and Wielicza. She also survived the Concentration Camp Plaszow, Auschwitz-Birkenau, including two death marches, Bergen Belsen, Gelenau and Mauthausen, where she was liberated at the concentration camp’s stone mines.
Mr. Mosberg’s overall message was to never forget the atrocities of the Holocaust and to spread awareness of what actually happened, from a first-hand account.

Edward Mosberg cannot forget certain images: A Nazi soldier ripping a baby from his mother’s arms and smashing the baby’s head against a wall; another soldier shooting through a rucksack to kill a hidden child. Among the six Holocaust survivors to meet with Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the Yad Vashem Hall of Remembrance May 11, 2009, Mosberg, now an American and the only survivor from his extended family, said he would have liked a moment with Pope Benedict to tell him about his mother, father and two sisters, in addition to his aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.
Mosberg, 88, a resident of Powder Mill, was 13 years old when the Nazis entered his native Krakow, Poland, and put his family into the Krakow Ghetto.
But soon his father was killed and, one by one, his grandparents were taken to the gas chambers. When the Nazis liquidated the ghetto March 13, 1943, his remaining family was sent to the Plaszow concentration camp, which was where German Catholic businessman Oskar Schindler drew up his famous list, saving the lives of more than 1,000 Jews. Mosberg and his family, however, were not among those on the list.
From Plaszow, Mosberg’s mother and sisters were taken to the Nazi-run Auschwitz concentration camp, where his mother was killed in the gas chambers. His sisters, Helena and Carolina, were taken to the Stutthof concentration camp in Poland. On the night before liberation, they were among a group of 7,000 young women the Nazis shot, killed and threw into the Baltic Sea.
Mosberg said he survived because he was a strong teenager able to do all kinds of work. He was taken to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria and forced to work in the stone mines, carrying heavy stones on his back up and down 186 steps all day.
“If you stopped for a moment, they either shot you or they pushed you off the cliff to your death,” he said.
Alone at 19 years old and ill, Mosberg spent eight months in Italy for medical treatment before returning to Krakow, where he met his wife, Cecile, and her father, the only survivors from their family.
Following their wedding in Belgium, in 1951 the couple moved to the United States, where Mosberg went into the construction business. Mosberg has been a developer in Parsippany since 1965, when he came to town as the local representative of the Wilf family, a real estate organization based in Millburn. Over the past four decades, his companies have built thousands of homes in Parsippany.
We can’t go with what was in the past. We have to go to with what will be,” said Mosberg, who has three daughters.
Source: http://parsippanyfocus.com/2014/12/20/mr-mosberg-talks-eastlake-fifth-graders-holocaust/

sábado, 20 de diciembre de 2014

A Survivor Recalls What It Was Like to Be Experimented on During the Holocaust

What was it like to be part of the genetic experiments on twins during the Holocaust?

Answer by Eva Kor, Holocaust survivor and forgiveness advocate
My twin sister Miriam and I were used in Josef Mengele's experiments at Auschwitz as 10-year-old girls. We were taken six days a week for the experiments. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we would be taken to the observation lab, where we would sit for hours, naked -- up to eight hours. They kept measuring most of my body parts, comparing them to my twin sister, then comparing them to charts. They were trying to design a new Aryan race so they were interested in all these measurements. These experiments were not dangerous, but they were unbelievably demeaning and even in Auschwitz, I had difficulty coping with the fact that I was a nobody and a nothing -- just a mass of cells to be studied. On alternate days we would be taken to another lab that I call the blood lab. This is where they would take a lot of blood from my left arm and give me several injections in my right arm. Those were the deadly ones. We didn't know the contents then and we don't know today. After one of those injections, I became very ill with a very high fever. I had also tremendous swelling in my arms and legs as well as red spots throughout my body. Maybe it was spotted fever, I don't know. Nobody ever diagnosed it.
As a guinea pig in Auschwitz, we had to realize that they could do to our bodies whatever they wanted and we had no control over what they put into us, what they removed, or how they treated us, and there was no place for us to go. 
People often ask me, "Why didn't you run away?" I am convinced those people know very little about Auschwitz. The barbed wire would electrocute you if you touched it. The whole camp was surrounded by that. Before you got to the high voltage fence, there was a ditch filled with water. So as you approached that fence, your hands were damp and you would be immediately electrocuted. At age 10, even if I succeeded in getting out, where would I go? 
Maybe I could have succeeded in running away when we were marched from Birkenau to Auschwitz I for some of the experiments. But as far as I could see when we were marching, that was all a military zone. Where on earth would I have gone if I escaped? I didn't know how far I would even need to run. And of course most of the time when someone escaped and they turned on the sirens, we would have to stand for roll call for two to four hours until the person was found dead or alive. If the person was found alive, the person would be hanged in front of us. The lessons were very clear. If found dead, they would be brought in front of the group so we would know that nobody escapes from Auschwitz. 
At age 10, I would not have dared to escape and I did not even think about it. That was so far from my mind. What I was thinking about every day was how to live one more day, how to survive one more experiment. I knew as the air raids were increasing, that this could not last for much longer. On the days when they would keep us for hours at roll call until the escapees could be found, I would often think, "Good luck -- I hope you make it." I never thought anyone did. I was lecturing in San Francisco about 15 years ago. They had about 10 survivors who were introduced. One of them said, "I escaped from Auschwitz." I was so excited! I went up to him and said, "Finally I know why I stood at roll call for so many hours -- I am glad to know somebody made it."
As twins, I knew that we were unique because we were never permitted to interact with anybody in other parts of the camp. But I didn't know I was being used in genetic experiments. 
I began lecturing about my own experiences in 1978. As I was telling my story, people would come up to me later on and ask about the experiments. Well, I remembered some details of my own experience, but I knew nothing about the bigger scope of the experiments. So I decided to read books about Josef Mengele, hoping to get more of an insight. But in all these books, it only had one or two sentences about him. 
I was trying to figure out how I could get more information, and I was looking at the famous photo that was taken by the Soviets at liberation. I could see there maybe 100 children marching between those barbed wire fences who were liberated. 
That is me and Miriam holding hands in the front row. I thought if I could somehow locate those other twins, we could have a meeting and share those memories. 
It took me six years, but in 1984, with the help of my late twin sister Miriam, we found 122 "Mengele Twins" living in 10 countries and four continents. We had a meeting in Jerusalem in February of 1985 (click here for picture). 
We talked to many of them. What I found out was that there were many, many other experiments. For instance, the twins who were older than 16 or were of reproductive age would be put in a lab and used in cross-gender blood transfusions. So blood was going from the male to the female and vice-versa. Sadly, they did not check of course to see if the blood was compatible and most of these twins died. There are twins in Australia who survived, Stephanie and Annette Heller, and there is a twin in Israel who was a fraternal twin -- Judit Malick, and her twins' brother's name was Sullivan. I heard Judit testify in Jerusalem that she was used in this experiment with a male twin of reproductive age. She remembered being on a table during the experiment when the other twin's body was turning cold. He died. She survived but had a lot of health problems. 
The question is how many of these twins did survive? Most of them obviously died. I also know for a fact that Mengele did strange experiments on kidneys. Mengele himself suffered from renal problems when he was 16 in 1927. He was out of school three or four months, according to his SS file. He was deeply interested in the way the kidneys worked. I know of three cases where twins developed severe kidney infections that did not respond to antibiotics. 
One of them is Frank Klein, who lived in El Paso, Texas, after the war. He very much wanted to attend the gathering in Jerusalem, but he was on dialysis. He actually came with his nurse and very much hoped he would get a kidney so he could live like a normal person. He did get a transplant in 1986. I talked to him after the surgery and he said he was doing pretty good, but then three days later he died. The other twin whose name I don't remember off the top of my head died also because of kidney failure problems. 
Then of course my twin sister developed kidney problems with her first pregnancy in 1960. The problems did not respond with antibiotics. In 1963 when she expected her second baby, the infection got worse. This is when the doctors studied her and found out her kidneys never grew larger than the size of a 10-year-old's kidneys. When I refused to die in the experiment where Mengele thought I would die (read about it here: What gives you hope during tough times?), Miriam was taken back to the lab and was injected with something that stunted the growth of her kidneys. After her third baby was born, her kidneys failed. In 1987 I donated my left kidney to her. We were a perfect match. At that hospital in Tel Aviv they had been doing kidney transplants for ten years. None of them developed cancerous polyps except for my twin sister Miriam, in her bladder. All the doctors kept saying was that there had to be something in Miriam's body that was injected into her that combined with the anti-rejection medication to create the cancerous polyps. 
Other experiments I have heard of from survivors: Many twins who did not have blue eyes were injected with something into their eyes. Luckily Miriam and I had blue eyes. Mengele did some other strange experiments. Most of them were very much in the line of trying to understand how to make blue-eyed blondes in multiple numbers, the germ warfare experiments, etc. If one twin died, Mengele would have the other killed and then do the comparative autopsies. According to the Auschwitz Museum, Mengele had 1,500 sets of twins in Auschwitz. There were only 200 estimated individual survivors. Everybody who has been researching that, including the Auschwitz Museum, said most died in the experiments and I agree. Dying in Mengele's lab was very easy. I am one of the few I have heard about to be in the "barrack of the living dead" and get out of there alive. 
I learned a great deal after the war in attending conferences, including one at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. This is where Mengele studied, and today it is called the Max Planck Society. They were trying to collect information about Mengele's experiments. They invited several twins and a few other people used in experiments by Mengele. Here is a photo of me studying some of the vials used in experiments at Auschwitz.

Auschwitz was the laboratory for any experiments any Nazi scientists wanted to do. There was no limit on what doctors and researchers could do at these camps. So it was open season on twins and other human guinea pigs like us.
Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/quora/a-survivor-recalls-what-it-was-like-to-be-experimented-on_b_6336556.html

miércoles, 17 de diciembre de 2014

Racial Hygiene and the Third Reich

jueves, 4 de diciembre de 2014

Nazi fugitive Alois Brunner 'almost certain' to have died in Syria

Brunner, who was born in 1912 and topped most-wanted lists for his role in the Holocaust, said to have died four years ago in Damascus

Alois Brunner allegedly helped organize the deportation of at least 130,000 Jews
 from Germany, Austria, France and Greece.
 Photograph: AP

A Nazi war criminal who topped most-wanted lists over the Holocaust is “almost certain” to have died in Syria four years ago, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre said Monday.
“I am almost certain that he’s no longer alive,” Efraim Zuroff, director of the group’s Jerusalem office, told AFP.
Zuroff said that according to a German intelligence officer, Alois Brunner “died four years ago in... Damascus,” where he had fled seeking refuge decades ago.
The Wiesenthal Centre “could not confirm the information” for certain, he stressed, but given the 1912 birth year of Brunner, the unrepentant “right-hand man” of leading Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann, he was in any case unlikely to be alive.
Brunner topped the Simon Wiesenthal list of wanted Nazis for deporting tens of thousands of Jews to death camps during the second world war, although he was removed this year due to his age and almost certain death, Zuroff said.
After the war Brunner escaped detection by taking on a false identity and worked for two years for the US occupying forces in Germany, before fleeing to Egypt in 1954 and from there to Syria, where he was protected by successive regimes.
He was pursued by Nazi hunters and survived assassination attempts allegedly by Israel’s secret intelligence service, the Mossad.
“In Brunner’s case, he got two letter bombs. He lost three fingers, he lost an eye, so I’m sure that didn’t contribute to his (good) health,” Zuroff said, in a veiled allusion to the Mossad.
French investigators, trying to call Brunner to account for crimes committed during the occupation of their country, lost track of him in 1992 in Damascus, where he had been living under an assumed identity.
“He was responsible for the deportation to the death camps of 128,500 Jews,” Zuroff said – including 47,000 from Austria, 44,000 from Greece, 23,500 from France and 14,000 from Slovakia.
“He was a fanatic anti-Semite, a sadist and a person who was totally dedicated to the mass-murder of European Jewry.”
Almost seven decades after World War II, the hunt for Nazi war criminals continues and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre publishes an annual list of those most wanted.
The current most wanted is Gerhard Sommer, a former SS lieutenant allegedly involved in the massacre of 560 civilians in August 1944, in Italy’s Tuscany region.
He has been under investigation in Germany.
In October, the Israeli branch of the Centre urged Germany to prosecute alleged members of Nazi death squads, giving it a list of 80 suspects.
It said the 76 men and four women whose names it provided to Germany’s justice and interior ministries belonged to “mobile killing squads”.
All of the suspects were born between 1920 and 1924, it said, making them “alive and healthy enough to face prosecution”.
Zuroff, who heads the Los Angeles-based group’s Jerusalem office, told AFP they believed two percent of “Nazi criminals” were still alive and that half of them could still be tried.
Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/01/nazi-war-criminal-alois-brunner-syria

viernes, 21 de noviembre de 2014

Auschwitz commander's grandson: Why my family call me a traitor

Auschwitz commander Rudolf Höss was one of the men tried in Nuremberg, in a series of hearings which began 69 years ago today. His grandson tells The Telegraph of his shame over his relative's actions - and why he thinks Europe has not learnt its lessons from the past.

There is no grave marking where Rainer Höss' grandfather lies. But if there were, Mr Hoess knows what he would do. 
"I would spit on it," he said. "I can't forgive the burden he brought into our lives. We had to carry a very heavy cross."
Mr Hoess's grandfather was Rudolf Höss – the Nazi commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp, and the man who oversaw the murder of an estimated 1.5 million people. 
And November 20 marks the day, 69 years ago, that the trial of his grandfather began in Nuremburg – perhaps the biggest series of trials of the past century. 
Mr Hoess, 49, is the only member of his family to publicly denounce his grandfather, who was hanged at the end of the trial, in 1945.
And he told The Telegraph, speaking by phone from his home in Germany how, as a child, he had no idea of the history of the man who died 20 years before he was born. 
"There was a dictatorship in the house, and we weren't allowed to disagree," he said. "I had to admire my grandfather like a hero."
Hoess joined the Nazi party in 1922 and 12 years later became part of the SS. His extensive experience at Dachau and Sachsenhausen as well as his long-time friendship with SS commander Heinrich Himmler led to his appointment as commandant at Auschwitz in 1940. 
He was the designer and administrator of the gas chambers and the one that introduced the Zyklon B gas that was used to execute children, the elderly and everyone else that was unfit to work. 
It was not until Mr Höss was 12, while at boarding school, that he learnt the true story of his dark family secret. 
Security guards caught him and his friends stealing from the kitchen, and so the head master of the school punished them by forcing them work in the garden. However, the gardener was an Auschwitz survivor, and the young boy's name immediately caught his attention. So he kept him working for three months – with the pretext that he wasn't working hard enough – and enjoyed slapping and kicking around the unruly pupil. The boy couldn't understand why. 
It was only when a teacher told him that his grandfather was responsible for all the agony the gardener had witnessed at the extermination camp, that he understood. 
But still his father, Hans-Jurgen – Rudolf's son – dismissed those claims. 
"My father would punish my mum and me. My mother tried to kill herself ten times and she once tried to hang herself from the balcony. I tried to kill myself twice and suffered from three heart attacks and a stroke in the 1990s."
Three years later the young Mr Hoess spent the holidays with his grandfather's driver, who told him of the luxurious life enjoyed by Rudolf Hoess in the villa he lived in near the camp. 
"Life at the villa was beautiful – but prisoners would be punished there," he said. 
"One of them got lost in the garden and was taken back to Auschwitz to be hanged. He was only spared at the last minute because my grandmother needed him to work."
In the villa many Jehovah's Witnesses were forced to work indoors. Communists, political opponents and gipsies were made to work outdoors. No Jews were allowed in the premises. 
Hoess's driver added that the Auschwitz commander always ordered a prisoner to sing for him before he went to bed. 
"He was a cold-hearted soldier who got 20,000 people killed by dinnertime – with the excuse that he just did his job," said Mr Hoess. "Yet he would later turn to a loving father who would tuck his kids in bed."
Eventually, Mr Hoess left home at the age of 16, trained as a chef, and broke all contact with the rest of his family by 1985. He said that they now call him a traitor. 
He had the chance to visit Auschwitz for the first time one cold morning in 2009 with his mother, an Israeli journalist and writer Thomas Harding. 
"I couldn't sleep the night before I went, and was walking around my room instead," he said. "At first I was looking for reasons not to go – but I had to check with my own eyes and needed to feel Auschwitz. 
"It was hard. 
"There was silence inside the car when we arrived. It was scary. I couldn't believe how big it was. I couldn't touch the bricks or anything else."
Mr Hoess's grandfather tried to escape with his family to South America after the war, but was captured by the British, confessed to his crimes in Nuremberg, and was hanged next to the camp's crematoria. 
The site of his execution is still there – and Mr Hoess considers it the best part of the tour. 
"He couldn't harm or punish people again. I wondered how he felt before being executed. How did he feel while looking at the villa, crematoria and camp?"
Mr Hoess was given a Star of David as a present by a Jewish lady, which he promised to wear at all times. "It offers me joy and help," he said. He was also recently informally adopted as the "grandson" of Eva Mozes Kor - an Auschwitz survivor, who was used in Mengele’s infamous experiments. 
He currently lives in south west Germany and speaks at around 70 schools a year where he tells children about his grandfather as well as extremist parties. 
"I never miss a chance to take on the far Right, " he said. "I have no fear in facing them."
Mr Hoess said that the "ideology virus" is alive and well in Europe today, and warned that "all far Right parties are exactly the same as the Nazis."
He believes that if his grandfather was alive today, he would definitely join those political bodies. 
"Their ideology is the same and they never switched rules. They use horrible phrases to influence young people and say that minorities steal jobs and space. Just like the Nazis did with Jews." 
He added that the only difference now is that the far Right parties have learned from the Nazis' mistakes. 
"They find effective and silent ways to spread their hate to others. But now they are not just talking about Jews, now the target is much bigger," he said. 
"The movements are much better organised than Hitler's Germany. I think the rest of the countries have learned nothing from the past."
Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/11241714/Auschwitz-commanders-grandson-Why-my-family-call-me-a-traitor.html

viernes, 14 de noviembre de 2014

Racial Hygiene and the Third Reich

Part of the Nazi ideology was to preserve the so-called Aryan blood purely and to save the healthy part of the population from the sick one. Jews and Gipsies were considered being of impure and therefore inferior blood. For these ideological reasons they were exposed to being murdered.

To read on download my article on Racial Hygiene and the Third Reich. Here's the link.

martes, 11 de noviembre de 2014

A veteran's tale — finding humanity after horror

His story is one of unexpected miracles and unimaginable savagery.
But ultimately, it’s a tale of redemption — of hope for a new generation wedded to peace and tolerance.
Veteran Ed Carter-Edwards is a riveting speaker about life in wartime and the words are tough to listen to.
The Canadian airman was downed over France in the Second World War, and brutally beaten by the Germans.
Embraced by the French Resistance, he was betrayed by a Gestapo collaborator and sent to the brutal Buchenwald concentration camp.
The Hamilton native, and 168 other Allied airmen that were with him, shouldn’t have survived.
But in an act of mercy, they were able to live another day, when so many didn’t.
Of the Buchenwald slave-labour camp in Germany, the 91-year-old Smithville resident recalls his arrival in a packed train car in the summer of 1944.
“Dogs were biting, whips slashing, it was the most horrible scene,” said Carter-Edwards. “We had never experienced such cruelty in our lives.”
Around them, there were tens of thousands of men and boy slave-workers as skinny as rakes. Death rained down everywhere, in random shootings, disease, starvation. People literally dropped dead onto diarrhea-caked mud.
“They played with human beings there, like a cat with a mouse,” the vet said, with choking emotion. “Life was not worth the snap of a finger.”
Carter-Edwards’s wartime odyssey began in 1942, when he was 19. “I personally felt it was up to me to do something to try to help England to ward off the threat of this massive monster machine Germany had put together.”
He enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force and became a wireless operator. By late 1943 he sailed off to England via the Queen Mary liner.
After joining a crew there, he quickly became aware of the perils he faced. The airman in the cot beside him who never returned after a mission. The darkened planes crashing into each other at night.
His time of terror began after his Halifax bomber was shot down in German-occupied Paris, France. Carter-Edwards parachuted down hard, found another crew-member, but got separated from him.
He came to a village and was fed by a family who feared the Gestapo would shoot them for aiding the enemy. A couple of safe houses later, he was met by someone from the French Resistance.
He was able to prove he was an airman, despite not wearing his uniform, and given false papers and a passport.
While in Paris, he and others were protected by a “young couple prepared to risk their lives,” Carter-Edwards said. Another driver — a Belgian German collaborator who’d infiltrated the Resistance— took them through the city.
“He stopped, the driver got out, spoke to a group of German military and immediately about six of them came, opened up the door and … proceeded to beat us.”
They then were sent to a French prison run by the Gestapo. For five weeks, the men nearly went insane listening to the sounds of torture screams. To pass the time, they killed fleas and counted them.
By mid-August 1944, 167 other downed Allied airmen including 26 Canadians — also betrayed while on French soil by the collaborator — found themselves gathered in a courtyard and set to go to Buchenwald by rail.
Amid the melee, he saw the young French couple who had protected him in Paris. They were also captured by the Germans. He tried to get the word out through a contact how appreciative he was. “Our eyes met,” Carter-Edwards said, his own eyes moistening. “And I never saw them again.
After five degrading days on the train to Buchenwald, the airmen and others arrived to Hell.
Cater-Edwards soon became gravely ill with pneumonia but was protected by an underground group in the infirmary from being euthanized by a death needle.
Buchenwald was an ongoing killing-field for those imprisoned there.
“If you couldn’t work, you died or were killed,” he said flatly. “Outside, you’d step over bodies like stepping over a log.
“It’s very difficult for you to imagine such utter cruelty and brutality.”
Then another miracle happened since surviving being shot down. The German Air Force found out about the identity of the then-166 surviving airmen. Five days earlier, a German order came to have the Allied airmen group executed.
Somewhere behind the scenes there was a change of heart.
“Suddenly, they had us removed and taken to a regular prisoner of war camp run by the German Air Force called Stalag Luft III,” he said. “They … saved our lives and we were all also dying by then, we were starving.”
At Stalag, they got half-decent food and medical treatment and slowly recovered.
As Allied troops advanced in by spring 1945, he was shuttled from one camp, then another, then liberated near Lubeck in May 1945.
When he returned to Canada, Carter-Edwards had trouble at first getting people to believe his concentration-camp experience as he isn’t Jewish and has no camp tattoos.
Carter-Edwards said even the Canadian department of veteran’s affairs refused at the time to recognize his camp experience
“So for 40 years, I never said a word,” he said.
Then by the 1980s, the Allied airmen ex-Buchenwald survivors began to get in touch and they have collaborated ever since.
He also recalls several moments of humanity that have struck him since those years of atrocity.
Last April, the French Legion of Honour recipient was invited back to Buchenwald for a remembrance anniversary, where he gave a speech in the same square where countless people were murdered during the war.
While there, he ran into a German Air Force colonel — he hadn’t seen a German airman since 1945.
“A big smile came on his face and he held out his hand,” Carter-Edwards said. “I shook it. He put his other hand on my shoulder and he said:
“‘I want to thank you and your comrades for restoring peace and freedom to Europe and to my country. You removed tyranny from my country and every German should embrace you for what you did.’
“Those were very emotional moments,” he said. “Seventy years earlier they were trying to kill us.
“I said to him ‘I want to thank you for those kind words… remember if it hadn’t been for the German Air Force, we’d all have died in Buchenwald.’”
“And then we embraced.”
Carter-Edwards told his story to a gathering of Grade 10 Governor Simcoe Secondary School students in a recent pre-Remembrance Day talk in St. Catharines
He urged the students to reflect on the sacrifices so many made during that horrible time.
“Today and on Remembrance Day as I stand for a minute of silence … I will think of the other 167 Allied airmen who were with me,” he said. “We did all this, because we were trying to restore freedom in the world and remove the horrors of the Nazi regime that had taken over Europe.
“And I hope you take some of my experiences with you. I hope you consider what we have today was earned through the lives of many men and women. And take the time to say ‘thank you veteran, wherever you are.’”
He also urged youth in the audience to remember the scourge of hate and terror and to quell it wherever they encounter it.
“I know you’ll do the best you can to generate peace,” he said. “Everyone deserves to live a decent life.”
Twitter @don_standard
Bringing a vet to two St. Catharines schools
Governor Simcoe teacher Steve Torok said his friend Bruce Williamson- a Laura Secord Secondary School teacher and city councillor- had both mused about enhancing the meaning of Remembrance Day for students.
“Bruce approached me about collaborating on (bringing a veteran like Ed Carter-Edwards to our schools),” Torok said. What started as a small scale idea, grew as Torok thought it made sense to expose more students to the experiences of veterans.
“Now is a perfect time to start our week of remembrance rather than having one single day,” he said.
“And this is a passion of mine as I spent the last 16 years in the army reserve too,” Torok added. “In the summer, I also help run the Links and Winks military museum in Niagara-on-the-Lake.”
“After talking to veterans, it’s important to me that their stories are shared and shared now.”
School principal Bill Klassen said it’s his concern that some young people have lost touch with the gravity and legacy of the great wars.
“We do cover it in the curriculum,” Klassen said. “But it’s not as immediate as it was even to someone like myself in the 1960s or 70s.
“And how often do you get this kind of living history in the classroom that we have with this veteran?”
What does Remembrance Day mean to you?
Asked of Governor Simcoe S.S. students last week
Shaun Bredl, 16
“To me, it’s about about remembering my family who has been in the military and fought in World War Two, specifically, who I never got to meet. But I can remember what they did even without talking to them and seeing them.”
Weston Miller, 17
“I think of what Mr. Ed Carter-Edwards said … when talking about his first air mission, he knew how dangerous it was. But he came to do a job and defeated the enemy and he was going to do that job at all cost.”
“I think Remembrance Day is honouring people like him who shared that same goal and had that same will to fight and defend and put their lives on the line for everyone back home.”
Dylan Cober, 17
“It’s about remembering what the veterans did for us, and all the sacrifices they made, so I can live my life with the freedom I have today.”
Desiree Archer, 18
“We take so much for granted these days, it’s a great lesson in humility for all of us. It teaches us how we got here and where it’s all coming from.”
Fitore Aliu, 18
“It’s about honouring everyone who sacrificed so much for us to have the freedom we do have. They went through Hell and back (for us) … Mr. Carter-Edwards touched my heart with everything he said and what happened to him in the camps. And how he said to ‘be nice to everyone and we should never do this again.’
Source: http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/2014/11/10/a-veterans-tale--finding-humanity-after-horror