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Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Day 147- another email sent today no name!


I just received this email - author unknown!!!!!

I have continued to read more of your Dad's memoir on your blog.


I think you should read about how German soldiers were treated by the
Allies after they surrendered to end World War II.


Read this website for a start:
http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v10/v10p161_Brech.html


I wrote about Eisenhower's death camps on my website at
http://www.scrapbookpages.com/EasternGermany/Gotha/index.html


I wrote about how German "war criminals" were imprisoned at Dachau on
this page of my website:
http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/NaziPrison.html


The attitude taken by your father in his memoir makes me very angry.  He
was legally a war criminal.  Yet he expected good treatment at the hands
of the enemy when he was captured.  The Germans were legally Prisoners
of War after they surrendered.  But General Eisenhower changed the rules
of the Geneva Convention so that the Germans could be legally mistreated
in his death camps.


You need to look at World War II from both sides, not just from the side
of an illegal combatant who was not satisfied with his treatment.  If he
had been in one of Eisenhower's camps, he would have had something to
complain about.


I am now through reading your blog.  It is too upsetting to me.

Day 146 - Another email with no name!!!

Sent to me today: Interesting ......


After I recovered somewhat from reading the hatred of the German people
expressed in your father's memoir, I went back and read your post from
Day 1.


You said that your father had a tattoo on his arm from his time in
Buchenwald.  Did you actually SEE this tattoo, or did your father just
tell you that he had a tattoo put on his arm at Buchenwald?


As far as I know, prisoners were tattooed ONLY at the Auschwitz camp.
Did he get this tattoo at Auschwitz?  You implied in your blog post that
he was tattooed at Buchenwald, which I don't believe.

My brother and I were trusting our memories as to the number we had remembered from our Dad's arm as children - when I started blogging I assumed that he had been tattooed in Buchenwald as he was liberated from that camp. In fact, before blogging and reading my Dad's memoir, I had only a vague idea of what had happened to him during the second World War..

Later, after blogging for a while, someone put me in touch with a place where I could obtain his records and had suggested to me that he thought that the number we were remembering sounded like an Auschwitz number.  Through this kind man's efforts, I was able to establish that the number on my Dad's arm was indeed, from Auschwitz.   Since blogging, I have been able to obtain more information about my Dad, as many, many kind people have come forward to help us fill in the pieces and to help us learn more about my Dad's life!    

You mentioned that he was a Nacht und Nebel prisoner.  Nacht und Nebel
was an expression originated by Goethe.  The English translation from
the German original words is Night and Fog.  You can check with
Wikipedia on the meaning of Nacht und Nebel, as related to the prisoners.


This quote is from Wikipedia:


Begin quote:
The decree was meant to intimidate local populations into submission by
denying friends and families of the missing any knowledge of their
whereabouts or their fate. The prisoners were secretly transported to
Germany, vanishing without a trace. In 1945, the seized
Sicherheitsdienst (SD) records were found to include merely names and
the initials NN (Nacht und Nebel); even the sites of graves were
unchronicled. To this day, it is not known how many thousands of people
disappeared as a result of this order. [1]

The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg held that the
disappearances committed as part of the Nacht und Nebel program were war
crimes which violated both the Hague Conventions and customary
international law.[2]
End quote


The Nacht und Nebel decree was used in an effort to prevent "political
prisoners" from fighting illegally.  The idea was to make their families
believe that they had been killed, so that no other civilians would
become Resistance fighters.  The idea was NOT to kill the illegal
combatants, only to make their families believe that they had been killed.


You wrote that the Germans SUSPECTED that your father was in the
Resistance, implying that he was not.


You wrote that your father's tattoo was etched in your mind as a symbol
of your father's INTEGRITY.  A person who was an illegal combatant in a
war did not have INTEGRITY.


I think you should keep in mind that Germany surrendered in May 1945,
and *the country of Germany is still occupied after 65 years.*


I lived in German for two years after the war, and I saw first hand how
the Germans were treated.  They were insulted and humiliated on a daily
basis by the American soldiers, whom they had to serve because there
were no other jobs for them.  There were very few men in Germany after
the war because they had been kept in Eisenhower's death camps until
they died.  There were 1.7 million German soldiers who never came home.


When I lived in Germany in 1957, the streets were full of German people
after midnight because all the Americans soldiers were in their
barracks.  The Germans were dancing and singing in the streets because
the American occupiers were in bed and they could have a few hours of
freedom.


The German girls were all sleeping with American soldiers so that they
could get food for their families.  The soldiers treated these girls
shamefully with a complete lack of respect.


Some of the German people were living in small garden houses after the
war because Germany was so completely bombed that there were not enough
homes left.  These little houses were the size of a one-car garage.  The
Germans, who had a house, were renting out rooms so they could make a
little money.  There were many homeless people in Germany, who were
begging on the streets, 12 years after the end of the war, because there
were no jobs and not many houses left.  These people were the
"expellees" who were ethnic Germans that were chased out of other
countries and forced to go to Germany.


Although the German people suffered greatly after the war, they honored
the terms of their surrender and did not become illegal Resistance
fighters as your father did.  Today, the German people still have no
freedom; Germany is still an occupied country.


How would your father have fared if he had lived in an occupied country
for 65 years, instead of a few months?


Even after the shameful way that the German people were treated after
the war, they managed to bounce back and Germany is now the strongest
country in Europe economically.  They have completely restored the
historic German towns that were bombed by the Allies just for the hell
of it.


Of all the counties in Europe that I have visited, the German people are
the nicest and the most polite.



Day 145 - A sincere apology

I received an email today from an author unknown. The person corrected me on the fact that I have incorrectly referred to my Dad as a POW.  I sincerely apologize to all who might be offended by this oversight on my part!!! I wonder why the person didn't sign it or say who they were!

Copy of what I received today:

 I followed the link to your blog and read all the articles.


I think it is incorrect to say that your father was "a Belgian POW."  A
POW is a soldier, wearing a uniform, who surrenders, or is captured, on
the battlefield where he is fighting according to the rules of the
Geneva Convention.  A person who is not wearing a uniform, nor fighting
on the battlefield, but is a civilian aiding one side in a war, is
called "an illegal combatant."  Such a person was not entitled to
treatment as a POW under the rules of the Geneva Convention of 1929
which was in force during World War II.


Buchenwald was one of the two main concentration camps where Resistance
fighters were sent; the other was Natzweiler.  The first memorial that
was put up at Buchenwald was in honor of the French Resistance fighters.


After World War II ended, the Allies made up new laws, called
"ex-post-facto" laws, which changed the rules of warfare.  After the
war, the Allies claimed that the Resistance fighters should have been
entitled to the same treatment as POWs and should have been put into a
POW camp, not a concentration camp.  The Germans were put on trial at
Nuremberg, under these new laws that had not existed when their alleged
crimes were committed.


At the former Dachau camp, America conducted separate trials of the
Germans under these new laws, that had been created after the war. The
SS men on the staff of several of the concentration camps, including
Buchenwald, were put on trial in the American court at Dachau; the
Germans were charged with being criminals, under a new ex-post-facto law
called "common design" which was also used as the law to charge the men
at Nuremberg.  Under the new law of "common design" there was no
defense; anyone who was associated with a concentration camp in any way
was convicted as a "war criminal" under this new law.


Under the laws that were in existence during World War II, your father
was a war criminal because he was fighting in violation of the laws at
that time, which were the laws under the Geneva Convention of 1929. 
Because the Allies won the war, your father is a victim and a hero
because he fought for the Allies as an illegal combatant.  The American
soldiers who killed the guards at Buchenwald were not war criminals, but
heroes.  Under the rules of the Geneva Convention, the guards should
have been taken prisoner.  Concentration camps were not illegal during
World War II.

The Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention, but the Soviets
claimed that their soldiers were entitled to protection under the rules
of the convention.  Soviet soldiers were executed at Buchenwald because,
under the rules of the Convention, they were not entitled to protection
because the Soviet Union did not honor the Geneva Convention with
respect to German soldiers.  The Allies changed the rules of the
Convention, after the war, so that the Soviet Union was entitled to
protection, although they were not following the Convention themselves.


America had "internment camps" where German-Americans were held until
two years AFTER the war.  Jehovah's Witnesses were sent to regular
prisons in America, not to the "internment camps."  Jehovah's Witnesses
were released from the German camps if and when they agreed to follow
the rules of their country and serve in the Army.


The British sent enemy civilians to regular prisons, not to internment
camps nor concentration camps.


After Germany surrendered, the Germans did not continue to fight as
Resistance fighters, as other countries did.  Poland surrendered after
fighting for only 28 days on the battlefield, but then continued to
fight as "the Polish Home Army" which did not fight on the battlefield,
but as illegal combatants, blowing up troop trains and ambushing German
soldiers from the forests in Poland.  Belgium also surrendered, but
continued to fight illegally.  France surrendered after 5 weeks, but
continued to fight as the "French Resistance."


Only the Germans followed the Geneva Convention to the letter.  Other
countries just changed the rules and then put the Germans on trial after
the war.  Sorry, but this makes me very angry.

Day 144 - I wish you enough ......


I Wish You Enough .... Author unknown

Recently I overhead a father and daughter in their
last moments together at the airport.  The airline had
announced her departure and standing near the
security gate, they hugged and said, "I love you. I
wish you enough."

She in turn said, "Dad, our life together has been 
more than enough.  Your love is all I ever needed.  I
wish you enough too, Dad."  They kissed and she left.

He walked over towards the window where I was
seated.  Standing there I could see he wanted and
needed to cry.  I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but
he welcomed me in asking,  "Did you ever say
good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?"

"Yes, I have," I replied.  "Forgive me for asking, but
why is this a forever good-bye?"I am old and she
lives much too far away.  I have challenges ahead,
and the reality is, the next trip back will be for my
funeral," he said.

"When you were saying goodbye I heard you say, "I
wish you enough.  May I ask what that means?"

He began to smile.  "That's a wish that has been
handed down for many generations within my family.
My parents used to say it to everyone."

He paused for a moment, looking up as if trying to
remember it in detail, he smiled even more.  "When
we said 'I wish you enough,' we were wanting the
the other person to have a life filled with just enough
good things to sustain them," he continued and then
turning toward me he shared the following:

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in
life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you
possess.
I wish you enough 'Hellos" to get you through the
final 'Good-byes'

Then he walked away.

I WISH YOU ENOUGH!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Day 143 - New readers!

Day 1           Introduction of my Dad's memoir
Day 2           to Day 112ish  = My Dad's memoir
Day 112 ....  Items related to the "Buchenwald" experience!

Hope you find it inspirational!

I have also started blogging a manuscript of my Dad's  experiences in Bulawayo, Rhodesia/Zimbabwe in the 70's: @ 
www. louisinbulawayo.blogspot.com or ca

Both of these blogs are not professionally edited - they are the culmination of an effort between my Dad and myself! 

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Day 142 - Buchenwald Poem


Crucible of Terror - Poem

A day in Buchenwald

The sun is smiling
Above me the sky is bright
But inside, my heart is tight.
How cruelly misplaced
Bird song seems
Where thousands were killed.
This is a place silence demanding
Where every smile must freeze,
A place laughter forbidding.
How much torment endured,
How many lives lost?
So carelessly taken ...
What suffering inflicted
Such crimes committed
At one man's behest!
"To each his own"
sneers the gate above,
a mournful heart is mine.
The feelings that fill me
Are pity and rage,
Helpless anger burns.
How cold, how dull
The hearts of those 
Who caused this agony.
A door falling shut
Resounds in these rooms,
An eerie gunshot ...
My God, how I thank Thee
That I freedom enjoy,
That you granted this gift.
Never was I forced to suffer
Am still able to laugh
Pain and sorrow pass by me.
And yet I am wistful,
These bloodstained roads
Hold me captive ...
Alicia Karlstroem
Written by Alicia Karlstroem, age 16, the day a memorial stone for Jehovah's Witnesses was unveiled by Max Liebster and Rikola-Gunnar LĆ¼ttgenau, deputy director of the Buchenwald Memorial, at Buchenwald concentration camp, May 9, 2002.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Day 141 - Remembering Buchenwald 2012 and always!

This blog from Day 1 onward is my Dad's memoir about his experiences during World War II, both as a civilian and a Belgian political prisoner in several prisons in France as well as in Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. 

I am Louis' daughter Paula and have blogged his memoir in the last year - he passed away 23 years ago.  Naturally, I always have mixed feelings on Remembrance Day.  On one hand, I feel incredibly lucky that my Dad survived the concentration camp experience at both Buchenwald and Auschwitz.

On the other hand, I also feel very sad for all those people who have suffered because of war.  My Dad saw many people die in horrible ways and so I like to especially remember those who didn't make it as well as their families!

Remembering Buchenwald.....
THE FOLLOWING EXCERPTS ARE FROM:
Working to Death
The Buchenwald Concentration Camp 
Kristina Mitim
Professor Lockhart and Professor Gramer
Independent Study 199 - April 9, 2000

Although the tides began to turn in favor of the allies during 1944, time ran out for many of Buchenwald’s prisoners. As the Nazis lost ground, Buchenwald faced immense population and internal pressures. Although the concentration camp was not designated as a death camp, mass killings occurred with greater frequency. The Buchenwald stables became a type of "murder plant" where 8,000 Soviet prisoners of war were killed.  The crematorium also became a place for executions. Prisoners were hung on the wall by hooks and then slowly strangled to death. The smoke emitted from the burning gradually increased to more than twice a week by the end of the war. These atrocities culminated in the first days of April 1945.

As the Soviet Union approached the German fronts in 1945, the Nazis had to abandon the Polish extermination camps and destroy the evidence of their sadomasochism before the allies discovered the atrocities. Auschwitz was liquidated. Those prisoners not yet killed were marched to German concentration camps of Dachau, Mauthauseu, and Buchenwald. Thousand of prisoners arrived in Buchenwald increasing the camp’s population to over 50,000. It became obvious that the liberation of the Buchenwald was inevitable as the American/British/French armies began to discover other concentration camps. But the last few days of Buchenwald proved to be the most fateful.

The Commandant Hermann Pister received orders from Berlin to get rid of the prison population before the allies could discover the camp. But Pister hesitated. Historian Robert Abzug attributes this hesitation to Pister’s practicality. Pister knew that Americans were coming and he wanted to present himself well, so he slowed attempt to evacuate and kill the prisoners. Between April 3rd and 10th over 20,000 inmates were transported out of the camp to Dachau, Flossenburg, and Theresienstadt. Most died on the journey. Through the communist resistance groups within the prisoners’ ranks, many SS orders were outright defied or stalled. Chaos began to reign within the camp. Pister did not threaten the inmates with the usual force and by April 10th he fled with most of the SS guard leaving only a skeleton crew to control the camp.

The liberation of Buchenwald on April 11, 1945 sparked a heated debate for scholars and historians concerning resistance in concentration camps. The two accounts that exist reflect the way in which Buchenwald was commemorated. One theory holds that communists saved the camp’s inhabitants. The communist factions controlled the underground leadership of the camp. Calling themselves the International Committee, these prisoners were lead by the communist Hans Eiden. Throughout 1943 guns had been stolen from the armament and hidden. By noon, when distant gunfire echoed in the trees, the resistance overpowered the remaining SS guards and liberated the camp from inside. With power now in the hands of the prisoners they patiently waited for the Allies to bring supplies. The second theory holds that upon hearing the approaching gunfire in the afternoon, the SS guards fled into the forest. The prisoners then showed their guns without any enemy left to fight.

The American Combat Team 9 of the 9th Armored Infantry Battalion, Sixth Armored Division reached the nearby town of Hottelstedt at noon. SS guards were found in the town and a small contingent of American soldiers was sent to investigate the location of a possible concentration camp. They stumbled upon Buchenwald and liberated 21,000 prisoners. The crematorium contained hundreds of half burned bodies since the coal had run out. Reflecting on the liberation, prisoner Eugen Kogon said,

"But while the men who had bee liberated made the air ring with their rejoicing, a remnant of the 26,000 men who had been shipped out of Buchenwald during the final weeks were starving and suffocating in fifty railroad cars on the outskirts of the Dachau Camp—nameless, immortal victims."With the discovery of Buchenwald, the western world faced the reality of German atrocities.Upon liberation, the Allies saw a macabre working society. The International Committee had complete control over the inhabitants of the main camp and they took over aid and relief efforts as well as dealing justice to the SS. Eighty guards were killed. Newspaper journalist Percy Knauth, who entered the camp shortly after the liberation saw a sign left over from the Nazis. "It was a big, white-painted proclamation, half-effaced now by wind and weather, but I could still read: ‘Honesty, Diligence, Pride, Ability—theses are the milestone of your way through here.’" But after viewing the inhabitants of the camp, it became evident that the irony and sarcasm of the German work ethic simply did not apply to the prisoners. The "little camp" inmates were held in such contempt that their gate remained locked days after liberation. Twenty or more prisoners continued to perish each day from malnutrition or disease. After revealing the reality of Buchenwald, questions arose--How had the world allowed such a thing to happen?

Of the estimated 250,000 people who entered Buchenwald, over 50,000 perished between 1937 and 1945. Edward R. Murrow, a renowned American broadcast journalist, reported the reality of the camp on CBS radio.

"…I have reported what I saw and heard, but only part of it. For most of it I have no words. Dead men are plentiful in war, but the living dead, more than twenty thousand of them in one camp. And the country round about was pleasing to the eye, and the Germans were well fed and well dressed."With unflinching clarity, photographs of the victims reached American newsstands in Life Magazine. Nazi concentration camps shocked the world with their brutality. As victim’s images entered public consciousness Buchenwald became a symbol of unbelievable horror.The misery in Buchenwald did not end with the liberation. Memorializing Buchenwald immediately became an issue once the survivors were cared for. The journalist Knauth wrote in 1946,

"Living there as no animal would live, they earned the respect of all mankind forever.That, I think, is the final moral of a place like Buchenwald. You can do what you will to man, but you cannot eradicate the power of his spirit. You can torture him; he will come back to face you again. You can make him live in filth and feed him excrement; he can still be greater than you are. You can kill him, burn him, scatter his ashes on a garbage dump; his ideals will kill you in the end. You cannot debase man, for in so doing you must lower yourself beneath him, and—no matter what you do—he always will be higher and stronger than you are. That is why no concentration camp in history has ever been successful in doing what it seeks to do, and why no concentration camp ever will be. Buchenwald carried the seeds of its own downfall in itself when its first strand of barbed wire was strung a decade ago, and every Buchenwald ever built always will.
But we forget so easily. Perhaps, to remember better, we should commemorate Buchenwald as we commemorate other things of which we are prouder."
But Buchenwald was not commemorated immediately after its liberation. In fact the German concentration camp became a Russian interment camp. Between 1945 to 1950, the Soviet forces used the area to hold members of the Fascist party. Of the 28,000 internees, 7,000 died because of neglect and undernourishment.
Since the reunification of Germany, memory and memorial in Buchenwald has been hotly debated. Both Jewish victims and gypsies desire some sort of memorial. But a more disturbing request for commemoration comes from the Germans themselves. Although no evidence exists that the Germans interned at Buchenwald after 1945 were tortured, many deaths resulted. Although not victims of Nazism, these deaths are also tied to Buchenwald. Those opponents of the memorial claim that by commemorating these fascist Germans, one could be memorializing Nazism. The debate rages.

Buchenwald represented unspeakable terror for thousands of prisoners. Perhaps the Christian Century magazine said it best in 1945,

"Buchenwald and the other memorials of Nazi infamy reveal the depths to which humanity can sink, and has sunk, in these frightful years. They reveal the awful fate which may engulf all civilizations unless these devils of our pride and of our ruthlessness and of the cult of force are exorcised."Remembering the past through memorials like Buchenwald may enable society to face the reality of man’s brutal nature and strive harder to control the destructive tendencies toward each other.


I especially like to keep the memory of my Dad and his fellow prisoners at Buchenwald alive in my mind, both those who made it and those who didn't.................

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Day 140 - Colonel Buckmaster's officers

The following is an excerpt from one of my Dad's favourite books, The White Rabbit, by Bruce Marshall.  He made pencil notations in Chapter XIV, Buchenwald.  In particular, he highlighted the following from: Pages: 191/192 - Re: Yeo Thomas and other British officers on their arrival at Buchenwald:

"A fellow Briton had also been watching their mirth with no trace of amusement on his face: he was Perkins, one of Colonel Buckmaster's officers, and he warned the prisoners in much the same terms as the Kapo."

"You have little to laugh about," he told them.  "This is one of the worst concentration camps in Germany.  I just can't tell you how bad it is, but you'll find out for yourselves.  The treatment is terrible and the deaths can't be counted any more.  For heaven's sake watch your step.' And he added another admonition: 'And don't let on that you are officers.  And if any of you held any executive position in peacetime keep it to yourselves.  The internal administration of the camp is in the hands of Communists, and they don't like either officers or capitalists.'

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Day 139 - Louis in Bulawayo

I have finally started a blog based on my dad's account of his experiences in Bulawayo, Rhodesia/Zimbabwe at www.louisinbulawayo.blogspot.com or ca.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Day 138 - hopefully I will be able to

start a new blog about my Dad's experiences in Rhodesia/Zimbawe during the terrorist war around the 70's - I will probably get going on it in the next few weeks. 

I have several manuscripts in his own handwriting - it is interesting information! I think I will interject with my own letters and experiences!