martes, 26 de enero de 2016

Harrowing Details of Nazi Medical Experiments Emerge in Holocaust Survivor's Account

In newly-discovered deposition, Dachau survivor recounts he almost froze to death in a hypothermia experiment, and was whipped for not standing still while mosquitoes infected him with malaria.

The chilling testimony of a survivor of Nazi medical experiments has emerged in a three-page deposition recently unearthed at the Central Zionist Archive in Jerusalem.

The deposition, which carries no date, was submitted by Heinz Reimer, a Jewish survivor of several concentration camps, among them Dachau and Mauthausen. His testimony was discovered by an archivist during a routine cataloguing project of old Jewish Agency files. The document was discovered in a chronologically arranged file originally held at the Frankfurt office of the Jewish Agency. Since the document preceding it is dated August 1951, the assumption is that it was submitted sometime in the early post-war years. 

Reimer is possibly one of the few Dachau inmates to have undergone Nazi hypothermia experiments who survived the war. In these experiments, inmates were immersed in ice water to test how long the human body could survive in freezing temperatures. Those who survived the icy temperatures were often subjected to various body “rewarming” procedures that also involved immersing them in boiling water.

Forced cold water immersion experiment at Dachau concentration camp presided over by Professor Holzlohner (left) and Dr Rascher (right).

Noting that he was “misused as an object of experiments” and “as a vivisection object,” Reimer reported in his deposition that the notorious Nazi SS doctor Sigmund Rascher “conducted on me experiments of terminal hypothermia,” indicating that he was subjected to this procedure more than once.  Rascher ultimately fell out of grace with the Nazis and was executed by a German firing squad just before the end of the war.

Reimer’s testimony is included in a request he submitted to the Jewish Agency for financial assistance after the war. His address at the time was Hanover, Germany, although his nationality could not be verified by the archive. Representatives of the archive said they have no further information about his whereabouts since then. 

In his request, Reimer wrote that the money he was requesting would be used to help him set up a laundromat business as well as pay lawyers who might assist him in receiving restitution funds from the German government.

Visitors walk past a gate with "Work makes Free" written on it at the memorial site of the former Nazi concentration camp
in Dachau, southern Germany on April 24, 2009. Credit:AFP

Reimer reported that along with other tortures he endured in the camps, he was purposely infected with various diseases by Nazi doctors in order to test out cures for them.

Several sentences from the Reimer testimony, a copy of which was apparently also available at a Geneva-based UN archive, have already been published in a book on Nazi human experiments. But according to Patrick Casiano, the archivist at the CZA who discovered the document, this is the first time that the full three-page testimony has come to light. 

“I was very surprised to discover it,” he said, “because usually here at the CZA, we deal with administrative and bureaucratic documents that were in the possession of the various Zionist organizations – never something as personal and as gruesome in nature as this.”

In his testimony, Reimer referred by name to several Nazi doctors at Dachau, among them Dr. Claus Schilling, who was ultimately sentenced to death after the war by an American tribunal. “Dr. Schilling infected me three times with malaria tropical bacteria,” he wrote. “He withdrew from my body one and a half liters of blood for serum experiments. He infected me with syphilis by inflicting a 12-centimeter cutting wound to my leg. After this I had to undergo cures – I counted 46 injections of Atebrin [a drug used in the treatment of malaria] and other injections.”

Particularly chilling is Reimer’s account of how he was infected with malaria. “This inhuman Nazi locked me up every day for two hours in a glass cage and I had to endure thousands of Anopheles mosquitos on my body,” he wrote. “Once I could no longer stand the pain I made an attempt of resistance against the mosquitos while I assumed that this would not be seen. But the doctor, if you want to call this beast like this, saw my attempt of resistance in the mirror. For this I received seven days of strict detention. But before I was led away to the detention, I received 25 lashes with a leather bullwhip.”

According to his testimony, Reimer was interned at various Nazi concentration camps from November 1938 through June 1945. Dachau was the first Nazi concentration camp, opened in 1933, and served as a model for many others.


lunes, 25 de enero de 2016

Poignant Holocaust artwork by Jews forced into hiding, concentration camps and ghettos on display in Berlin

Nelly Toll was 8 years old when she and her mother went into hiding in 1943 in Poland to escape the Nazis’ death camps. The Jewish girl spent long hours in her tiny hideaway at a Christian family’s home writing stories, keeping a diary and creating wonderful, bright paintings of a lost world.
Her art is on display in the centre of Berlin at a special exhibition of Art from the Holocaust that opened at the German Historical Museum.
“I hope that generations to come will look at this and know what atrocities made me do this,” Toll told The Associated Press at the opening.
Toll’s paintings are among 100 artworks created by Jewish artists during the Holocaust on display, the first time the collection from the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem has been shown outside Israel.
The exhibition includes work by Jewish artists in hiding, in concentration and labor camps, and in ghettos. Of the 50 artists featured, 24 were killed by the Nazis. Alongside the mostly unknown names are acclaimed artists such as Felix Nussbaum and Ludwig Meidner.
Toll is the only artist represented in the show who is still alive. One of her paintings, “Girls in the Field,” shows two girls, dressed in bright blue, red and yellow-dotted dresses walking across a sunny lawn confined by lush green trees.
“I made 60 paintings while in hiding and all of them express happiness,” said Toll, who lost her father and brother in the Holocaust. She emigrated to the United States with her mother after the war.
Like many Jews who created art while being surrounded by death, fear and suffering, painting was a way for Toll to break free and escape from the Holocaust’s harsh reality to imaginary places of beauty and happiness.
“I would have conversations with the characters in my paintings for hours,” Toll remembered.
Not all the works show an escape into a happy imagination. Some artworks are shocking in their depictions of life in the ghetto, daily discrimination and fear of being killed by the Nazis.
Halina Olomucki’s 1939 pencil work, “After the Shearing of the Beards,” shows two orthodox men with bandages around their heads after their beards had been torn or burned off by Germans in the Warsaw ghetto.
Leo Haas’ “Transport from Vienna” shows the arrival of a train full of elderly Jews at the Theresienstadt ghetto in 1942. Painted in dark, monochrome India ink, people with faces like hollow skulls can be seen tumbling out of cattle cars, many lying lifeless on the ground as a soldier keeps pulling more people off the train.
The show’s curator, Yad Vashem’s Eliad Moreh-Rosenberg, called the creation of art during the Holocaust an “uncompromising act of resistance” by artists in mortal danger.
It was very difficult for the artists to get painting supplies, but despite that and their appalling living conditions they managed to portray life during the Shoah, fighting their dehumanization by the Nazis and leaving behind painted witness accounts, Moreh-Rosenberg said.
Among the most touching works is a postcard painted in 1941 by both Karl Robert Bodek and Kurt Conrad Loew while at the Gurs camp in southwestern France, which was then under the Vichy regime that collaborated with the Nazis.
Titled “One Spring,” the watercolor shows a bright yellow butterfly sitting on top of black barbed wire, free to fly wherever it desires, while the two artists were confined to the dark barracks of the camp depicted at the bottom of the painting.
Bodek was killed a year later in Auschwitz-Birkenau, while Loew survived and died in his birth city of Vienna in 1980.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was to officially inaugurate the show on Monday night, said on her weekly podcast released over the weekend that such exhibitions are still critical for educating younger Germans about the Holocaust.
“It reminds us that we have an enduring responsibility for what has been done in the past…” she said. “I think it is very, very important that every generation reacquaints itself with Germany’s history.”
Merkel specifically cited fears raised by German Jewish leaders about a possible rise in anti-Semitism with the arrival of nearly 1.1 million migrants last year.
“We have to deal with it, especially among young people whose family background is from countries where hatred of Israel and the hatred of Jews is widespread,” she said.