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May 09, 2005

Unseen History: Yom Hashoah 2005

New photos of the Holocaust keep turning up. Eric Muller has found some of his great uncle and aunt, who did not survive the Nazi camps.

Sixty-three years and eight days ago, on April 26, 1942, my great-uncle Leopold Müller and his wife Irene were marched on a roundabout route from a Gestapo gathering point in a small park in Würzburg through the city's streets to a train depot. There they left their luggage on the platform and boarded a train to the East. To their deaths.

The Nazis scrupulously documented this deportation. Dozens of photographs were taken, like the one you see here. My great-uncle and his wife are in this group. Somewhere.


But photographs were apparently not enough. The Nazis also hired someone to make a movie of the event.

Posted by Bigwig at 03:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 14, 2005

Unseen History: Friar Victor

The photo above was taken 60 years ago, in April 1945, in the German town of Schwarzenfeld. It's one of a series of Holocaust photos my dad discovered under a drawer in an Army Surplus filing cabinet. The bodies in the caskets are those of Jews, some of the over 6 million killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust. The people attending the funeral are Germans who had been ordered there by American officers.

The Americans discovered that many hundreds of helpless persons, including Allied prisoners-of-war and Polish Jewish slave laborers, had been shot in cold blood by Nazi SS troops, and their bodies thrown into a mass grave. The executions took place one day before the American forces captured the town. After making official record of the circumstances, U.S. Military Government officers ordered local German civilians to exhume the bodies and provide coffins and a civilized burial for the victims.

Aside from the soldiers, the only other American in the photo above is a priest, Friar Victor Koch, who appears in the far right hand side of the picture. He had been sent to Schwarzenfeld to found a monastery in 1932. His presence was the only thing that saved the town from destruction after American forces discovered the mass grave on its outskirts.

Sources indicate that Father Viktor argued with the American commander for no less than three hours. Eventually, he succeeded in convincing him that Schwarzenfeld’s citizens were innocent of this atrocity. He agreed to spare the town under one condition. He ordered Schwarzenfeld's citizens to exhume corpses buried on the town's outskirts, wash them, clothe them in donated garments, construct caskets, and give each victim a proper burial, all in 48 hours. If the townspeople failed to achieve this task, he intended to re-issue orders for Schwarzenfeld's destruction. To complicate matters, wood and nails--the construction materials needed to construct caskets--were scarce. However, the people of Schwarzenfeld were resourceful. The children knew of a local barn where old horseshoes were in plentiful supply, and they quickly proceeded to gather as many as they could find. Later, the nails were hammered back into shape, and then used to construct the coffins. Every man, woman, and child in the town participated in this effort, and with Father Viktor's help, they succeeded in completing this monumental task.

I recieved an email or two from relatives of Fr. Victor after the original post went up. Last I heard they were attempting to write up a news/magazine article on Fr. Victor and his history. My guess is that the story eventually turned into this website. There are a number of other photos of Fr. Victor and Schwarzenfeld, including some I hadn't seen before dealing with the atrocity and subsequent re-burial.

Posted by Bigwig at 04:30 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 26, 2004

Documenting Anne

Anne Frank would have turned 75 in June. New photos of her life have been published at the website devoted to her.

The foundation's website -- -- features the only existing film footage of the young Jewish girl, taken in 1941 before her family went into hiding during the World War II occupation.

The black-and-white clip shows Anne Frank leaning from a balcony, watching the wedding preparations of one of her neighbours.

The site also includes photographs and testimony from family friends and neighbours -- including from Miep Gies, the Dutch woman who helped the Frank family hide from the Nazis -- published for the first time in digital form.

The video the film mentions can be seen here.

Posted by Bigwig at 01:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 20, 2004

Dark Night

Eric Muller's great uncle was a World War I veteran. A Jewish veteran, who lost the use of his arm while fighting for his country.

That country was Germany.

How his service was repaid.

How black would a man's thoughts be, once he realized the country he'd crippled himself for was intent on murdering his family?

Posted by Bigwig at 10:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 30, 2004

Unseen History: Witness

Chuck Simmon's mirror site has been visited by a man who personally witnessed some of the scenes depicted in Unseen History.

Posted by Bigwig at 08:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 12, 2004

Unseen History: Others

Carolina Law professor Eric Muller comes from Nazi refugees on his father's side. Recently, he's been going through the pictures his family brought with them when they escaped. Most of them are innocuous, portraits of normal family life that reflect nothing of the lengthening shadows outside their home.

Most. Not all.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 04, 2004

Unseen History: In The Press

I was interviewed by a reporter from the Wilmington Star back in.......October, I think. A while ago, certainly. He'd heard of the Unseen History posts and wanted to do a story on them.

It's just been published. (registration required. Use "" as the member name, and "laexaminer" as the password)

CHAPEL HILL - The easiest way to move the cabinet was to take out all the drawers first.

It had stood in Professor Sidney Stafford's office for more than a decade, a gift of U.S. military surplus to Louisburg College.

He inspected the drawers as they came out one by one. Each was empty, except for the last.

"Just papers and trash is what it looked like," said Dr. Stafford, a campus chaplain and instructor in religion and philosophy. "The cabinet had been sitting there for 20 years when I decided to move it."

He had a class, so he put off cleaning out the drawer till later. When he returned, he took up the papers to throw them out. But he stopped, turned over the pages and looked. Images of horror, in black and white, stared back.

They were pictures of the first evidence found by U.S. soldiers of the Holocaust.

Yes, that's me, though I rarely ever look that serious. The wife couldn't stop giggling when she saw it, which does wonder's for a mans self-esteem, let me tell you.

Like the photo, the story is more or less accurate. My father's not a doctor, for one thing, though he does emit a kind of a phd vibration. When he dicusses the Apocrypha, for instance. Mark's not the first person to gift him with that honorific by a long shot.

Also, in most cases my servers do not page me before they break, though admittedly that would be greatly appreciated. Typically I'm paged after they malfunction, but before the user notices. I'm therefore almost positive that I didn't say

"When they know they're not going to work, they call my beeper," he said. "And then we fix them."

However, we had dinner at the Top of the Hill brewpub, and expense-tab beers have a way of contorting speech. At the best of times I tend to trip over my words, so I undoubtedly supplied Mark with a number of mangled quotes.

As well, there are occasions when the servers go in to warning states, which will send a page my way. For the most part though, the pager only goes off when things are already broken.

Posted by Bigwig at 09:50 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 13, 2003

Unseen History: Appendices

There were a couple of items I ran across while researching the Unseen History posts that I couldn't fit in, like this movie, taken at Ohrdruf, of German civilians burying the victims of the camp.

I also ran across this excerpt, describing part of the liberation of Dachau, in Joshua M. Green's Justice at Dachau.

Rainbow's arrival from the east was followed by arrival from the northwest of the 45th Infantry Division, known as Thunderbird. Lt. Col. Felix Sparks, the division's twenty-seven-year-old commander, had been given orders to detour from his push toward Munich and to proceed instead to a place call Dachau. No further explanation was given. Thunderbird, named for a Native American god of war and terror, boasted on real Native American, 1st. Lt. Jack Bushyhead, known by home in Tulsa, Oklahoma as Chief Glorious Eagle. In 1943 the division had taken part in the invasion of Sicily, then moved on to secure beachheads at Salerno and Anzio. Italian children danced with glee when Bushyhead confided to them that the entire division was made up of real Indians.

"Where are your feathers?" the wide eyed children demanded.

Now, two years and countless battles later, Thunderbird arrived in the village of Dachau and found railroad tracks heading in the general direction of the camp. Sparks turned to 1st Lt. William P. Walsh. "I want you to take the company and go up these tracks. Don't let anybody out." Walsh and his mean headed up the tracks and encountered the same thirty-nine boxcars Rainbow had discovered. Seeing so many skeletal corpses, some of the Thunderbird soldiers screamed, others cursed. The rest were stunned into silence.

"Now I know what we're fighting for," said Bushyhead. "We can't live in the same world with them. They're nothing but animals. They must be destroyed."

According so some accounts, Bushyhead kept his word.

I should point out that, other than the above, most of the web sources for Bushyhead massacre story are either racist, proponents of some type of Holocaust Denial, or some combination of both.

The official account of the American actions at Dachau lists 17 Germans killed, with as many as 11 others killed in other locations on that day, with most seeing the action as understandable, if regrettable.

''General Patton was appointed military governor of Bavaria and had set up headquarters in Augsburg,'' Sparks said in the Globe interview. ''I walked into his office and saluted and introduced myself. Patton said, 'Didn't you serve under me in Africa and Sicily? Well, you have a damn fine record.' '' Sparks said that when he began to explain what happened in the coal yard, Patton instantly waved him off.

''He said, 'That won't be necessary. I've investigated these goddamn charges, and they're a bunch of crap.' I saluted and left, and I never heard anything more about it.''

Sparks's version of his meeting with Patton is disputed by some researchers, but it is supported by Lieutenant General Kenneth Wickham, the 45th Division's chief of staff, who now lives in Los Altos, Calif.

In any event, when the Eisenhower investigation into the American treatment of German POWs was completed at the end of 1945, Colonel Charles L. Decker, an acting deputy judge advocate, said officials doubted that convictions could ever be obtained.

''It appears that there was a violation of the letter of international law, in that the SS guards seem to have been shot without trial,'' Decker wrote. ''But in the light of the conditions which greeted the eyes of the first combat troops to reach Dachau, it is not believed that justice or equity demand that the difficult and perhaps impossible task of fixing individual responsibility now be undertaken.''

Or, as Lieutenant Harold T. Moyer, one of Sparks's men who witnessed the coal yard gunfire, would put it at the inquiry:

''I believe every man in the outfit who saw those boxcars prior to the entrance to Dachau felt, and was justified, in meting out death as a punishment to the Germans who were responsible."

Posted by Bigwig at 11:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 11, 2003

Unseen History:

For those of you happening upon these pictures for the first time, an explanation of how they came to appear on this site can be found in the first post in this series.

A list of all the Unseen History posts can be seen here, and will eventually be mirrored here.


We end where we began, at the Ohrdruf work camp, where the American experience of the Holocaust began, with what was for an all to short time the only concrete evidence the West had of the vast Nazi death machine. Other proof came all too soon, in massive, overwhelming amounts. At the height of the Reich campaign against undesirables within and without its death camps numbered in the thousands

Click on picture for a larger version.
S & G 61331

THIS PHOTO SHOWS: Some of the prisoners who were mercilessly massacred by the Nazi SS men lie on the ground at the prison camp. Many of the men were naked and in the last stages of starvation when they were executed.
British Combine - Acme Photo F 15486 from Sport and General.

Click on picture for a larger version.

It takes a special sort of ignorance to look at pictures like the one above, to gaze upon the results of a campaign calculated, approved and directed by Germany's highest leaders, a campaign willingly executed by the vast majority of its citizens and think; "The United States sure was horrible to the Native Americans."

It's hard to believe such wilfull ignorance exists when evidence that can allay it is literally available at the touch of a finger. Yet exist it does. Scan the comments on many of the posts in this series and there it will be, standing out from those around it like a corpse at a wedding.

As the eyewitnesses to the Holocaust grow fewer in number, the meme that conflates the American Indian's experience in the nineteenth century with that of the Jew in the twentieth grows more pervasive. Not that comparisons with the Holocaust need be confined to that example alone, but the experience of the native American is greatly tempting to those of a certain mindset.

"Never Forget" means nothing to these people, because they don't know what they're never supposed to forget was in the first place. Their lack of historical knowledge allows them to peer into the past and see patterns that never existed, much as a child percieves monsters in the shadows of a night-darkened closet.

For those who promulgate the argument, the point is not to equate the native Americans of the 1870s with the Jews of the 1940s. Frankly, they couldn't care less about either group. The equation they are interested in is not Native American = Jew, it's United States = Nazi Germany.

It's a deeply flawed idea on many levels, which is one reason its main appeal is limited to those ignorant of history, an argument so weak it can be refuted with one word.


Geronimo, the Apache who died in a Florida prisoner of war camp in 1909, yet who fought for so long and so hard against the U.S. that his very name is a symbol of bravery. Geronimo, the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment.

If one wishes to prove that Nazi Germany and America are equivalents, then one must first produce the Jewish Geronimo, reknowned throughout Nazi Germany for his bravery, the Jew whose fame is so everlasting that a German Army regiment has taken his name for its own.

Failing that, the Jewish Cochise, "incomparable as a leader and a strategist," would also be acceptable.

Or the Jewish Crazy Horse, whose image has been slowly carved into a mountain over the last 55 years by a World War II veteran and his descendants.

Or Sitting Bull, whom thousands of Americans paid to see and cheered for as part of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show And Exhibition.

It's not like there aren't examples to pick from. Jews fought back against the Nazi regime in the Warsaw Ghetto, at Bialystok, at Sobibor, Treblinka and a hundred other locations, known and unknown.

Yet there are none. America took those whom it oppressed and made them heroes. Germany.......well, we know what Germany did.

None of this is meant to denigrate or whitewash the suffering of the North American Indians, 6000 to 7000 of whom died as a result of actions directly sponsored by the British and American states. Millions more died as a result of disease, especially in the years before the English arrived on the continent, or due to the slow, worldwide grind of culture against culture, a grind that continues to this day. The American Indians died, over hundreds of years, like the Gauls, the Maratha, and the Nubians before them. People have died throughout history because of where they were, because someone else wanted the land they lived on. Others surrendered, and survived.

The victims of the Holocaust died because of who they were. They died regardless of whether they fought or surrendered. 6 million died in 7 years.

The numbers alone make comparisons between the Holocaust and the American Indian experience ludicrous. 7000 deaths over 400 years, versus 6 million in 7.

If that is not enough, there is a final bit of evidence, one that speaks directly to the nature of the respective governments overseeing the fate of the Jew and that of the American Indian.

In 1944, the German bureaucrat in charge of Jewish Affairs, an intimate of Hitler, was Adolf Eichmann.

In 1870, the American bureaucrat in charge of Indian Affairs, an intimate of President Grant, was Ely S. Parker, a Seneca Indian.


Barring another overlooked Army Surplus cabinet, this is the last post in the Unseen History. Thanks for stopping by to read them.

Postscript: Some final thoughts on the Unseen History posts are here.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:37 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 10, 2003

Unseen History: Loot

For those of you happening upon these pictures for the first time, an explanation of how they came to appear on this site can be found in the first post in this series.


These are the last of the pictures but one. They don't really fit in with the rest, as they were first taken by the Germans, then captured by the Allies at a later date. Still, the civilians in both pictures are likely camp workers. They're just at work, alive, rather than dead in a ditch or smoldering barracks.

Both deal with another Nazi crime, the looting of Europe's art. By some estimates up to 20% of all the art treasures in the world during the Nazi era ended up in Germany, and thousands of pieces remain there.

Notes: I've tried to identify the three paintings in this picture via the Lost Art Internet Database, a site set up in the year 2000 by the German government, ostensibly to aid those trying to track down art stolen by the Nazis. It's slow, requires a login to view any of the art reports, and, once a person jumps through all the required hoops to register with the site, presents the user with this message

Your access will be established on workdays within 24 hours after registration.

So much for the vaunted German efficiency. Or is it that, after 60 some years,the Germans have grown attached to their ill-gotten loot and don't really care for the idea of returning it to the Juden?

Thanks to the United States, it's easy to find a list of the people who collaborated with the Nazi's in looting the art collections of Europe. Thanks to the Germans, getting a simple list of the stolen objects is practically impossible.

Things are somewhat different for looted assets in the Netherlands.

If I had to guess, I'd say the landscape was a Salvator Rosa. From what little detail there is the painting appears to be his style, and there are a number of his works listed in the database. I'm stumped by the two portraits, however.

Each photograph, like the ones taken at the atrocity scenes, has a description of the scene glued to the back, though one much different in style. Here's the caption for the photograph above.

If there ever was a German description, it's long gone. I've no idea what the three letter acronym at the end stands for. The typist's initials, possibly?

If the two photographs are at all related, then the scene above took place in Yugoslavia, as the caption for the one below places it there.

Caption on rear:

The Yugoslav State Treasure in Cloister Ostorg - valuable articles are carried out into the courtyard preparatory to being transported to Germany.

The country referred to is not the country created after World War II, but rather the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, which puts the date of the picture somewhere around 1941.

Another oddity - there was once a third photo in this series. By the time we ran across the file containing them it was long gone, but the caption had been left behind.

Hitler's Gestapo men are submitting to him treasured pieces of art filched from the overrun countries of Europe. Goering looks on with pleasure."

I always wondered what that photo looked like, but never really expected to know. But, thanks to the magic of the Internet, I've got a pretty good idea.

photo via this site, translated here.

The gif is so small that it's hard to tell for sure, but that certainly appears to be a look of pleasure on Goering's face, and that's definitely Hitler. If anyone knows the location of a bigger version, drop us a line.

The tenth post in the series can be seen here.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:26 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 09, 2003

Unseen History: Schwabmunchen 2
Their Hands Are Bloody With The Guts Of Humanity

Note: This post will be at the top of the site for most of the day, then revert to its original publishing time at midnight. New content will appear below. An up-to-date list of all the Unseen History posts can be seen here, and will eventually be mirrored here.

For those of you happening upon these pictures for the first time, an explanation of how they came to appear on this site can be found in the first post in this series.


Albert Gaynes visited Kaufering4/Schwabmunchen two days afeter it was liberated. He wrote home to his wife about what he saw there. I've added links tho the letter where I've been able to locate further information about the people and places he mentions.


I have seen today the full, complete bestiality of what was one of the Nazis horror concentration camps. I saw for myself with my own eyes the ungodly sight. Debbie, I hope that you will never see what I will see until I die.

Our division overran a concentration camp located in the path of our advance. The last town I visited before this location was Augsburg in southern Germany. It has been several days since its capture when I visited it.

The camp is located about 300 yards off a main road. It's not hidden or out of the way. The shacks resembled the OCS barracks which you saw at Aberdeen - the tar paper ones. But for sleeping quarters the prisoners lived on the dirt floor with nothing but some dirty straw.

But how can I describe the actual inhuman, unbelievable sights.
I saw dead men lying inside of these shacks. I saw them lying in the fields and on the ground.

They were naked. How had they died? They were starved and tortured to death. They were skeletons with skin. Their hideous faces appalled me, but I wandered about almost refusing to believe that I was not dreaming. I saw men with their arms broken into all shapes; men with arms and legs cut off; men with their throats slit; men with their heads cut off; men with their legs twisted and misshapen. I personally saw 50 or 60 of these creatures which once were Human beings. There were some shacks which the Nazis had burned and I saw the charred bodies.

When I had seen all my mind and stomach and heart stand, I left. Others of the company who explored the area found long ditches for graves which were littered with dead bodies which had not even been filled with dirt
What had these men done to warrant being tortured. (They were tortured; not just starved. The arms and legs and countless other mutilations must have been done while the inmates still lived.)

These men had disagreed with the Nazis. They were political prisoners - Jews, communists, liberals, devout Catholics - anyone who had disagreed with the Nazi political philosophy.

I saw these mangled, misshapen, starved bodies being carried to be buried by German civilians at the point of our soldiers guns. These German bastards looked just like the corner delicatessen owner. But they were black inside and their hands are bloody with the guts of humanity.

Don't ever let another sonofabitch tell you that the rape of Lidice, that the slaughter of 2,000,000 Jews in Poland, that the human furnaces, that the concentration camps you read about are lies. I have seen it with my own eyes. I have seen the unbelievable. I have seen the depths of depravity to which so called human beings - the nazis - can fall. Debbie it is unbelievable--but, believe me. I have seen It.

I could expound on my observations going into details, but my pen cannot continue. I shall remember what I have seen. I shall never forget it. Whatever is done with the Nazis - leaders and followers cannot repay them for what they have done - unless it is the same torture.

I have read Ilya Erhenberg - the Russian correspondents Communiques on German atrocities and the proposals for reprisals. I had read the smug American newspapers criticism of his suggestions of extermination of Nazis. I thought he was bloodthirsty. But after witnessing what he must have seen I can countenance any acts against the Nazis which he proposes.

My heart is heavy and sad. For the rest of my life I shall have impressed upon me the possibility of another Hitler and his gang of inhumans. They must never be permitted to rise again. We must also recognize the possibility of such individuals gaining control over our own country. The fascists of our own nation - the Coughlins and Smiths and Pilleys and Williams - are capable of the same inhumanities. The Nazis are not the exclusive possessors of warped minds. I will never tolerate the anti-Semite or the fascist. He is dangerous and a potential torturer.

The war has a newer meaning to me - the extermination of Nazism must be accomplished and the recurrence of such a regime must be prevented.

I repeat, my Debbie. It is true - all the horror stories that the Nazis have perpetrated. From what I have seen they are capable of any inhumanity describable. There are none which they would not or could not execute. In all the world's history this black mark is most, horrible. We are supposed to live in a civilized world. But I have seen the barbarism and cannibalism of a so called civilized nation. Their scientific achievements are dwarfed by their utter lack of _______ . I am lost for words.

All of Germany will soon be occupied. The Nazi regime will have been defeated. But it is the peace to follow which will have to be won. Another Nazi regime or its counter part must be prevented. And I shall do some serious thinking. I must find the solution. And when I do I will do my utmost to see that it succeeds. And you must help me think and act.

Goodnight, Debbie. My heart is heavy. But the knowledge that we are eliminating this scourge on the earth - and quickly - fills me with joy. On the streets of this City I see free Poles, Russians, Jews, Catholics, Mongols, Blacks, French et al. I am proud that I played a part in their freedom.

Do not fear for my feelings or attitude. Despite all the horror I have seen, I am glad that I saw it. I no longer fear that we may do an injustice to the Germans. They are guilty of inhumanity and murder.

I should like to continue writing now, but I will close.

I feel very close to you Debbie. I am happy that you are safe. I feel almost that I have personally saved you and your Mom and our folks and all our relatives from the Nazis because that would have been our fate also.

Other Eyewitness accounts from the men of the Twelth Armored Divison, the unit that liberated Kaufering IV, can be seen here.

Click on picture for a larger version.

AP 64696
THIS PHOTO SHOWS: The gutted remains of the burnt-out prison camp. In the foreground are burnt, emaciated bodies of prisoners.
Associated Press Photo 278019

Notes: Blue ink #14090 Only about half the barracks, which look like they were constructed by piling dirt on top of lumber appear burned. The building in the upper right appears to be of a more solid construction, likely it was the guardhouse. Like the Ohrdruf exterior, this is the only photo I've found of Kaufering that shows something of the layout of the camp.

Click on picture for a larger version.

AP 64699
THIS PHOTO SHOWS: Emaciated and burned bodies of prisoners litter the camp enclosure. In the background are the smoldering remains of their crude living quarters in which they were burnt alive of shot as they tried to escape the flames.
Associated Press Photo 278021

Notes: Blue ink #14149 The large number of naked corpses in these photos are due to Schwabmunchen/Kaufering IV having been declared a Krankenlager, or sick camp, earlier in the war. After that, sick prisoners were not allowed clothing. Most spent their days lying naked atop the one woolen blanket they were issued.

Click on picture for a larger version.

AP 64697
THIS PHOTO SHOWS: Naked, starved and half-burned bodies line in the gutter of a raodway through Schwabmunchen.
Associated Press Photo 278018

Notes: Blue ink #14091

For the dead prisoners in camp Kaufering IV, there was a special work detail. ... The task of this detail was to bury the 20, 25, or 30 people who died each day. Since this was the only possibility for me to get out of the camp, I volunteered for this detail on March 21, the first day of spring. The naked corpses were placed on a hand cart. The gold teeth had already been removed. This was a special task for one of the prisoners- - a dentist. The teeth were broken out of the mouths of the dead people under the supervision of an SS- guard. ... The burial detail left the camp every day - 15-20 corpses and more. It was a rule to have as many prisoners on the detail as there were corpses. - Dr. Norbert Fried

Johann Baptist Eichelsdorfer, the Commandant of Schwabmunchen/KauferingIV, was found guilty of Violation of the Laws and Usages of War, sentenced to death, and hung on the 29th of May, 1946

The ninth post in the series can be seen here.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:38 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 08, 2003

Unseen History: Schwabmunchen
Most Of The Hovels Burned Down

On Monday I spent an hour with one of the research librarians at UNC, who, try as he might, came up with diddly when it came to information about Schwarzenfeld and Schwabmunchen.

Schwarzenfeld you already know about. It turns out that Information about Schwabmunchen was hard to come by because it is no longer known by that name. History knows it as Kaufering IV, or Hurlach, a sub camp of Dachau.

Pulitzer prize winner Louis Lochner wrote about the camp's liberation.

Nearly 4,000 Jews from various parts of Europe were killed at Concentration Camp No. 4 which is located only a few miles from the jail cell where Adolf Hitler wrote his "Mein Kampf."

Only yesterday the few that could still walk were dragged only by the fleeing Nazi overlords.

Today I saw scores of charred bodies, hundred of naked virtual skeletons, lying the ground with unforgettable grimaces of extreme pain. I also saw and smelled the filthy hovels where they were herded until the fleeing SS guards set fire to them, burning several hundred Jews alive.

Some 250 Germans, including ministers, priests, farmers, businessmen and common laborers from the surrounding country, were brought to the camp today on the orders of Colonel Edward F. Seiller, of Louisville, KY, head of the 12th Armored Division's military government section.

German civilians were digging mass graves.

Standing amidst the burnt, tortured, wound-gashed corpses, Seiller asked the Germans to remove their hats in tribute to men who "like yourselves could see, feel, hear, smell and taste like other humans but who were coldly and inhumanely murdered."

Seiller said, "You may say that you weren't personally responsible for all this, but remember you stood for the government which perpetrated atrocities like these."

Colonel Seiller seized a heavy set, stocky, bullet-headed man whose shaven head was smeared with iodine and stood him amidst the gruesome corpses and said, "I now produce for you the man who was commandant of this vile camp. Here's the man who was chiefly responsible for the tortures you see here with your own eyes which were inflicted on the unfortunates lying here."

The grave diggers angrily cried, "Throw the wretch down here, we'll finish and bury him." From among the 250 German visitors came shouts of "swine, beast, criminal." Some spat.

Colonel Seiller next conducted the Germans over the concentration camp compound. Most of the hovels had been burned down by the retreating Gestapo but enough remained to give a graphic picture of the filthy, stench-reeking conditions under which the inmates lived.

It was evident from an examination of the bodies that those who managed to crawl out of the burning hovels and escape being burned alive had been killed on emerging. Many of the corpses were in a crawling posture with wounds both from guns and blunt weapons.

Beyond the compound along the edge of the forest about a quarter of a mile from the last watch tower, scores of bodies lay like stacked lumber. Beyond them were half-finished trenches, evidently the Nazis themselves had intended to remove these telltale corpses before the Americans arrived. "The German civilians were ordered to carry these bodies to the mass graves."

The following appears on the back of each Schwabmunchen photo.

More than 4,000 slave laborers were burnt alive in their living quarters or were shot as they attempted to escape from the flames in Schwabmunchen, southwest of Munich, another Nazi horror camp uncovered by troops of the Seventh U.S. Army. The camp was discovered as the 12th Armored Division forged its way toward the Austrian border. As spearheads threatened the camp, the German guards found they could not get the prisoners away before the arrival of the advancing Americans. Rather than allow the internees to be liberated, the guards set fire to the crude huts in which the prisoners slept, burning them to death or shooting any who tried to escape. The laborers were all Jews of various nationalities. These photos were taken April 28th, 1945, shortly after the camp was discovered.

All photos were taken by the Associated Press and include this notice, stamped in purple ink on the back of each.

PHONE-CENTRAL 1515 (11 lines)

Click on picture for a larger version.

AP 64698
THIS PHOTO SHOWS: Sprawling grotesquely in the prison enclosure are the bodies of Jewish slave laborers, burned alive by their German guards.
Associated Press Photo 278020

Notes: Blue ink #14150. The bodies are so intertwined that it is practically impossible to number them. I count 40 on the top of the and foreground of the picture, there may be an equal number lying beneath them. According to a member of the 12th Armored, the original barracks floor was about three feet below the surface, so likely there are more bodies in the pile. An original barracks floor. A picture of the inside of a Schwabmunchen barracks can be seen here. Fire would have swept through it at a terrific pace.

The item in the upper right may be a German flag entangled in the fence.


The man who Colonel Seiller forced to stand amid the bodies of his victims was the commandant of the camp, SS officer Eichelsdoerfer.

From the Arnold Bauer Barach Collection, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives

Eichelsdoerfer was tried at Nuremberg, but I have yet to find out his fate. Given the deaths of those he stood among, I don't imagine it was as horrible as he deserved.

The eighth post in the series can be seen here.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 07, 2003

Unseen History: Schwarzenfeld

Seven days after American soldiers first stumbled on to the massacre at Ohrdruf, they liberated twenty thousand concentration camp internees at Buchenwald. Five days after that the British freed forty thousand prisoners from Bergen-Belsen.

Those two events overshadowed some of the other atrocities uncovered by Allied soldiers in the days afterwards. In one, over a thousand men were burned to death in Gardelegen, Germany on April 13th, two day before troops from the 102nd Infantry moved into that town.

A similar incident took place in Schwarzenfeld, Germany on April 21st, again just before that town was captured by American soldiers. In any other war, at any other time, the discovery of hundreds of executed prisoners, including prisoners-of-war in a freshly dug mass grave would have been front page news. In the Germany of 1945, it was just more of the same. What notice there was of the Gardelegen and Schwarzenfeld atrocities quickly evaporated.

For the victims of Gardelegen, there is at least some remembrance. It's a different matter entirely when it comes to those murdered at Schwarzenfeld There's nothing on the Net about the Schwarzenfeld graves, and the Holocaust survivor memoirs I've found mentioning the town only do so in passing.

The Ohrdruf pictures posted earlier may have been unseen for sixty years, but they at least depicted scenes that were known from other photographs, scenes that anyone with interest and a browser could have found.

No such pictures exist on the Net of the Schwarzenfeld killings, or of the camp at Schwabmunchen, the subject of the next post in this series. The mere mention of either is almost as scarce.

Which is the whole point of these posts. In the years to come, information not on the Net might was well not exist. There may be more information about the deaths at Schwarzenfeld available offline, though I haven't found it in any of the libraries at UNC, and if it was important to anyone, it would have been posted long ago.

A few hundred dead in one small German town is just a drop in the ocean of millions that died in World War II, but their deaths deserve what memory we can give them nonetheless.


As they form something of a rough narrative, I'm posting all five of the Schwarzenfeld photos.

"Original Print
Must be returned to
Office of War Information
Picture Division Library
224 West 57th Street
New York, N.Y."

is stamped on red ink on the backs of each photograph. Some of the original information on the backs of the photos has been lost to the years. Any text appearing in parentheses is my best guess as to what should appear there.

All have the following as the general explanation of the photographic context:

When U.S. troops of the 26th Infantry Division, Third U.S. Army, captured Schwarzenfeld, Germany April 22, 1945, another story of Nazi murder and atrocity was revealed. The Americans discovered that many hundreds of helpless persons, including Allied prisoners-of-war and Polish Jewish slave laborers, had been shot in cold blood by Nazi SS troops, and their bodies thrown into a mass grave. The executions took place one day before the American forces captured the town. After making official record of the circumstances, U.S. Military Government officers ordered local German civilians to exhume the bodies and provide coffins and a civilized burial for the victims. Schwarzenfeld is 47 miles east of Nuremburg and 28 miles west of the Czechoslovakian border.


Uncovering The Graves

Click on picture for a larger version.

BIPPA EA 84389

THIS PHOTO SHOWS: This is one of the victims of the Nazi SS troopers after being exhumed for proper burial.
U.S. Signal Corps Photo ETO-HQ-45-34034

Notes: The number 14133 is stamped in the back of the photo in blue ink.

To my eyes, this looks like the body of a boy, maybe 11 or 12 years old, though the malnutrition endemic in the slave labor population would have kept him small for his age were he older. His right knee appears scraped raw, as if he had stumbled many times on the march to his death.

Allied Soldiers Watch As German Civilians Carry In A Coffin

Click on picture for a larger version.
BIPPA EA 64395

THIS PHOTO SHOWS: Four German civilians carry a casket containing the body of one of the atrocity victims past rows of other victims awaiting burial.
U.S. Signal Corps Photo ETO-HQ-45-34024

Notes: The number 14141 is stamped in the back of the photo in blue ink.

Digging The Graves

Click on picture for a larger version.

BIPPA EA 64391

THIS PHOTO SHOWS: German civilians dig graves for the victims under supervision of U.S. Military Government officers. Stacked at the right are some of the newly made coffins.
U.S. Signal Corps Photo ETO-HQ-45-34029

Notes: The number 14144 is stamped in the back of the photo in blue ink.

I'm not sure how many graves could fit into this area. If there were several hundreds killed, as the description of events above states, then this may have been just one of the areas where the bodies were re-interred.

Re-burying The Dead

Click on picture for a larger version.

BIPPA EA 64388

THIS PHOTO SHOWS: Approximately 500 German civilians and a group of Third Army soldiers attend burial services for the victims. The German pastor conducting the services said local residents (were) unaware of the atrocity.
U.S. Sig(nal Corps Photo) ETO-HQ-45-34035

Notes: The number 14147 is stamped in the back of the photo in blue ink.

Notice how, in this picture and the ones above, how well fed the Germans appear in comparison to the dead?


Click on picture for a larger version.

BIPPA EA 64393

THIS PHOTO SHOWS: These three Polish Jews escaped the fate of many of their comrades. They hid in a cellar of a nearby home during an American ai(r) attack on the area and remained there unt(il the) arrival of Third Army Troops.
U.S. (Signal Corps Photo) ETO-HQ-45-34027

Notes: The number 14143 is stamped in the back of the photo in blue ink.

I have no idea what the names of these men are. I wish I did.

The seventh post in this series can be seen here.

Posted by Bigwig at 01:04 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 06, 2003

Unseen History: Ohrdruf 5

Note: This post will be at the top of the site for most of the day, then revert to its original publishing time at midnight. New content will appear below. An up-to-date list of all the Unseen History posts can be seen here, and will eventually be mirrored here.

For those of you happening upon these pictures for the first time, an explanation of how they came to appear on this site, as well as more information on the Ohrdruf work camp can be found in the first post in this series.

Andrew Rosner was evacuted by the Germans from Ohrdruf the day before it was liberated.

At the age of 23 I was barely alive as we began the death march eastward. All around me I heard the sound of thunder - really the sound of heavy artillery and machinery. I looked for any opportunity to drop out of the march. But, any man who fell behind or to the side was shot instantly by the Nazis. So, I marched on in my delirium and as night fell I threw myself off into the side of the road and into a clump of trees. I lay there -- waiting -- and waiting -- and suddenly nothing! No more Nazis shouting orders. No more marching feet. No more people. Alone. All alone and alive -- although barely.

I moved farther into the woods when I realized I was not really left behind. I slept for awhile as the darkness of night shielded me from the eyes of men. But, as the light of dawn broke, I heard shooting all around me. I played dead as men ran over me, stumbling over me as they went. I lay there as bullets passed by me and Nazis fell all around me. Then all was quiet. The battle was over. I waited for hours before I dared to move. I got up and saw dead German soldiers laying everywhere. I made my way back toward the road and started walking in the direction of a small village, which I could see in the distance. As I approached the village two Germans appeared. One raised his gun toward me and asked what I was doing there. I told him I was lost from the evacuation march. He told me that I must have escaped and I knew he was about to shoot me when the other German told him to let me be. It would not serve them well to harm me now. They allowed me to walk away and as I did, I said a final prayer knowing that a bullet in the back would now find me for sure. It never did!

In the small village I was told to go farther down the road to the town of Ohrdruf from where I had come three days before. There, I would find the Americans. And so I did.

As I entered the outskirts of the town of Ohrdruf two American soldiers met me and escorted me into town. I was immediately surrounded by Americans and as their officers questioned where I had been and what had happened to me, GIs were showering me with food and chocolate and other treats that I had not known for almost five years.

You were all so kind and so compassionate. But, my years in the camps, my weakened state of health, the forced death march, and my escape to freedom was more than a human body could bear any longer and I collapsed into the arms of you, my rescuing angels.

I awoke in a hospital. As soon as I opened my eyes the nurse ran to get the waiting American officers and their press corps. I was taken back to the Concentration Camp Ohrdruf by jeep in a convoy headed by Generals Eisenhower and Bradley themselves. Several survivors and myself gave General Eisenhower and his men a personal tour of the horrors, which you had discovered at Ohrdruf. I never forgot how General Eisenhower kept rubbing his hands together as we spoke of the horrors inflicted upon us and the piles of our dead comrades. He insisted on seeing it all, hearing it all, learning it all. He knew!! General Eisenhower knew. He wanted to have it recorded and filmed for the future. He said that sometime in the future there may come a time when people will say it never happened that way -- it's an exaggeration, it's propaganda, it was just the end results of war. Well, the time is now, only 50 years later. There are those who would tell you WWII of the 89th Division that what you saw at Ohrdruf and at other camps never happened the way you said it did. The atrocities never happened. The tortures. The hangings. The starvation. The brutality. It never happened and YOU NEVER SAW IT!! They would take your fight for goodness and freedom and call it futile, worthless. Your sacrifices would have no meaning if all that you fought for were nothing more than a tale of someone's imaginings! But, we were there. I, the victim. You, the liberators. I, the survivor. You, the witnesses. And together we must, in our golden years on this earth, again do battle with the forces of man's worst evil so that what I and you lived through 50 years ago, what we say, will not be tossed aside as insignificant in the annals of man's history. It must be made so important that no one can ever say it didn't happen that way and therefore they could be allowed to repeat it.

What you, my liberators, did in 1945 represented all that was good and kind in the world. Had it not been for your goodness and kindness and compassion I would have died. I would have died. A world would have died."

For the men below, the world did die.

Click on picture for a larger version.

THIS PHOTO SHOWS: Soldiers of the Fourth Armored Division survey the scene of death and desolation on the ground of the prison camp. Associated Press Photo 277134.
The word "Duplicate" stamped in red ink, is very faintly visible under the "Original Print. Must Be returned to Office of War Information" notice

Notes: Just behind the officer on the right is a body lying on a stretcher. I don't know if the presence of the stretcher means that the G.I.s had started to move the bodies before it was decided to make the German civilians bury them, or if the man on the stretcher was still alive when the camp was liberated. If so, then he had been lying beside the bodies of his co-prisoners, slowly dying, since the day before, when the SS guards machine gunned the group before fleeing.

One of the bodies, the second from the bottom, left, appears to be wearing a blindfold, though none of the other victims do. Why? Did the rest of the prisoners make a break for it when they realized what the blindfold meant, or was he led out by them, perhaps so injured or weak that he could not abide the light of day?

Many of the bodies are half clothed. Were they looted after being executed?

The "THIS PHOTO SHOWS" information also appears in the picture below. Note the upside-down number stamped in blue ink at the bottom, 15406.

Click on picture for a larger version.

The blue ink numbers are sequential. The two outside shots of the Ohrdruf camp are numbered 11095 and 11096. The top photo in the first Unseen History post is numbered 11097.

I've got nine photos of the Ohrdruf camp. I've found maybe 100 others on the net, which is stretching the number quite a bit. Most of the other sites dealing with Ohrdruf tend to pull from the same pool of photos. That leaves over 4200 pictures of the Ohrdruf camp unpublished on the Net, and I sincerely doubt that even 500 of those have been published in non-electronic media or can be seen in the Holocaust museums.

As the photo above shows, there were at least two photographers at Ohrdruf. In fact, there were at least five and probably many more. I have prints from the U.S. Signal Corps, British-Combine-Acme, and the Associated Press, and know of two other photgraphers who were at the camp , Eric Scwab, who took pictures for the Oversees News Agency, and Merrill Blanchard, a member of the 261st Medical Detachment. Ohrdruf was liberated on April 4th. Eisenhower toured the camp 8 days later. Thousands of photographs could easily have been taken in that time.

So where are they? Assume that half of the 4200 picutures in the Ohrdruf series are duplicates, as two of the ones in my possession are. That still leaves a couple thousand Ohrdruf photographs unaccounted for.

Many are probably in filing cabinets and boxes, or somewhere in the National Archives, if they still exist. Certainly running across them by accident is a not an experience unique to my family, as Tom noted in the comments on the first post in this series

I suspect there are many more photos still buried in files elsewhere. Several years ago I was asked to retrieve some photos from the Army archives of the 45th Division, and while digging through the folders found several images taken at the time of the liberation of Dachau... one of them showed the initial reactions on the former camp guards faces in response to the tables being turned, while former inmates (in striped uniforms) pointed out various German officers to American soldiers. Situation looked very tense, as if the American GI's might even open fire.

As far as unseen history goes, the 20 odd photos my father found in the bottom of that filing cabinet are only a drop in the ocean.

Update: I've looked at the other photos, and there are several numbered in the fourteen thousands that deal with camps other than Ohrdruf. The numbering system may then be a reflection of when the film was printed, rather than the location it was shot at.

The sixth post in this series may be seen here.

Posted by Bigwig at 01:28 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 05, 2003

Unseen History: Ohrdruf 4
The Prisoner Beat His Brains Out With A Rock.

Note: An up-to-date list of all the Unseen History posts can be seen here, and will eventually be mirrored here.

For those of you happening upon these pictures for the first time, an explanation of how they came to appear on this site, as well as more information on the Ohrdruf work camp can be found in the first post in this series.

Click on picture for a larger version.

BIPPA EA 61492

THIS PHOTO SHOWS: American soldiers and survivors survey the bodies of slain prisoners. The prisoners were too weak to leave as the Fourth Armored Division approached the camp, so the Germans shot them and left.

U.S. Signal Corps Photo ETO-HQ-45-30887

Notes: Colonel Sears, and two other officers, either colonels or majors, at the scene of the execution.

The coffee cup in the foreground, presumably the possession of a guard, suggests where the German firing line might have been. The prisoners would have been lined up, watching their one of executioners drain the last dregs from the cup before he dropped it to the ground, unshouldered his machine gun, and opened fire on them. Several must have tried to run. You can see how far they got.

Shortly after the discovery of Ohrdruf, Eisenhower, Omar Bradley and Patton were given a tour of the camp. Eisenhower mentioned it in a letter to George Marshall.

On a recent tour of the forward areas in First and Third Armies, I stopped momentarily at the salt mines to take a look at the German treasure. There is a lot of it. But the most interesting - although horrible - sight that I encountered was a visit to a German internment camp near Gotha. The things I saw beggar description. While I was touring the camp I encountered three men who had been inmates and by one ruse or another had made their escapes. I interviewed them through an interpreter. The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where they had piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said he would get sick if he did so. I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to "propaganda".

photo via the National Archives
General Eisenhower listens to a description of Ohrdruf by a tour guide.

The man who led the generals' tour of Ohrdruf claimed to be a former prisoner, though it later turned out he was not, surprising considering his detailed knowledge of the camp. Patton later wrote Eisenhower about him.

It may interest you to know that the very talkative alleged former member of the murder camp was recognized by a Russian prisoner as a former guard. The prisoner beat his brains out with a rock.

Gosh, I wonder which prisoner that might have been.

photo via the National Archives
The tour guide demonstrates methods of torture for Generals Patton, Bradley and Eisenhower.

No mention of whether the former prisoner was then chided for prolonging the cycle of violence or not.

The fifth post in this series can be seen here.

Posted by Bigwig at 11:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 04, 2003

Unseen History: Ohrdruf 3
We Didn't Know! - But We Knew

Don Timmer helped liberate Ohrdruf.

Like most veterans, silver-haired Mansfield resident Don Timmer enjoys telling war stories.

Stories about how, as a "goof-off" of 18, he was drafted in 1945 and became a private in the 89th Infantry Division of the Third Army under General George Patton. How he was among the first troops to land directly in (occupied) France; how his company went through France "like a hot knife through butter."

But what the army private didn't talk about, except to his family, was the two days he spent in the German town of Ohrdruf and vicinity.

Recently, however, something happened to make Timmer, a Protestant, break his silence. As he describes it, last spring, at a Board of Education meeting in Loudonville, Ohio, a high-school teacher was reviewing her itinerary for the senior class trip to Washington, D.C. Proposed stops included the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, the Smithsonian and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

One of the school-board members "flew into a rage," as Timmer was later told, stating that the Holocaust was grossly exaggerated and that the students shouldn't be forced to go to the museum and listen to "a fabrication."

"When I heard what the guy said, it made me go back to my memory" of those April days in 1945, says Timmer, anger rising in his voice. His company, stationed in Gotha, Germany, at the time, was getting ready to penetrate deeper into the country when the call came to move south, instead, to Ohrdruf. There were conflicting reports about a concentration camp there, and the soldiers were to "investigate."

Timmer remembers it was one of the first nice days of spring as they drove the 10 miles to Ohrdruf. German fighter planes strafed them along the way, but no one was hurt. As they entered the town of Ohrdruf, home to some 20,000 people, "No one came out to greet us." Less than two miles past town they understood the reason.

"We came up to a 15-foot-high barbed wire fence and could see unmanned wooden shacks (barracks) behind it," recalls Timmer. "We drove in and between the gate and the barracks were 30 dead ... the blood still wet from the departing German guards" who had shot the prisoners before fleeing in trucks.

Seeing the American soldiers, the surviving prisoners who could still walk (about half of the 500 who were there) "cautiously" came out of the barracks.

Timmer, the son of Dutch-born parents, had taken German in high school, and suddenly he was thrust into the role of company interpreter. He would be the first to hear and tell others the tales of unspeakable horror that were already evident in the sights and smells surrounding them.

To hide the evidence of what transpired at Ohrdruf, the guards, he learned, had been trying to dispose of about 2000 bodies, mainly slave laborers. Half had been exhumed from a mass grave, and half had been stacked in several buildings awaiting incineration.

Since Ohrdruf was the first concentration camp to be liberated, "we were ordered to leave the bodies where they lay," recalls Timmer. "The division commanders would be notified of what had been found and would probably want to see for themselves."

Meanwhile, the GIs shared their rations with the living and looked around, stunned, at the scene before them. At noon, Timmer continues, the division commanders arrived, and Patton himself came at 3:30. Within half an hour, fearless "Old Blood and Guts," as Patton was known to his men, was so sickened by what he saw that he "threw up."

General Eisenhower flew in from Belgium early the next morning to witness the carnage firsthand."Even Ike looked pale, and he wasn't a pale guy," says Timmer. The supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe had brought his own interpreter, so Timmer was temporarily relieved of his duties. "Ike stayed until dark," Timmer recalls, talking at length to one of the articulate prisoners.

When Eisenhower left, Patton brought the mayor of Ohrdruf and his wife to the camp to see for themselves what they undoubtedly already knew. (When they were off duty, the guards would come into town to "brag, womanize and drink," notes Timmer, "so how couldn't townspeople know?") Then Patton ordered the mayor, his wife and all the other able-bodied townsfolk to come back the next day and dig individual graves for the dead prisoners.

The citizens did as they were told, completing 80% of the burials and promising to come back the following day to finish the job. That night, the mayor and his wife hanged themselves.

Timmer was called upon to translate their suicide note. It said, simply, "We didn't know! - but we knew."

In the first concentration camp to be liberated by the Western Allies, Don Timmer was the first soldier to hear the tales of horror. 58 years later, one of his countrymen tells the first American Holocaust witness to his face that what he saw and heard first hand was nothing but lies.

I wouldn't be surprised if the speaker added something along the lines of "Besides, it's no worse that what we did to the Sioux."

The new flavor of Holocaust denial is not to deny that it happened, but to deny it significance, to reduce 6 million dead Jews to a mere blip on the bloody radar of human history. "Bad things have happened to people all through history" goes the logic. "Besides, everyone does it." It's an argument that demands the perfection of human character before allowing action against evil while simultaneously denying that such perfection can possibly exist.

It's a neat rhetorical trick, an excuse for inaction in the face of evil. Given the numerous discoveries of mass graves and documented atrocities visited upon the people of Iraq by the recently deposed Ba'athist regime, the timing of its emergence is suspicious, and saddening.

The argument's aim is clear, though not all who ascribe to its logic recognize what that goal is. It seeks to make all of the human tragedy and suffering equally important, which sounds noble enough. But, if all deaths are equally important, then they are also equally unimportant, which leads to

"Bad things have happened to people all through history,"

So there's no rush to when it comes to freeing Iraqis from their dictator, to defend Liberians from theirs, and suicide bombers and those who hunt them are morally equivalent.

and "Besides, everyone does it."

Not the Germans. Not anymore. I wonder why that is?


If you're in Ohio and would like Don Timmer to talk to a class or organization about not only his experiences with the Holocaust, but those of his sister, who nursed survivors of the Ebensee concentration camp in Austria, you can contact him via e-mail: imogenetimmer AT

I'll be posting only one concentration picture a day over the long weekend, mostly other angles of scenes already depicted at Ohrdruf. On Monday I'll post the first photos from the mass graves at Schwarzenfeld.

Click on picture for a larger version.

Click on picture for a larger version.

As the back of the photo shows, the specific description for this scene is long gone, though it appears to be the inside of one of the barracks the laborers at the Ohrdruf camp slept in. "BIST" or "RIST" is stenciled on the columns as are the letters "SP" on the rafters above. "ZYC" is written in chalk on the brick column in the foreground. The gaps between the walls and roof have been stuffed with straw in an attempt to stop drafts, straw probably taken from the thin pallets the prisoners slept on. Above each pallet is an eyebolt with a metal ring through it. I hesitate to guess at the purpose they were used for, but they could easily serve to hold up the wrists of a bound prisoner if a rope was run through it.

I'm fairly sure that the soldier is once again Colonel Sears, talking to a survivor of the camp, who also appears in the only previously known picture of Colonel Sears at Ohrdruf (Second picture down, third man to the left of the Colonel). I have no idea who the survivor is, but I like to think it's Henry Meyer.


For those of you happening upon these pictures for the first time, an explanation of how they came to appear on this site, as well as more information on the Ohrdruf work camp can be found in the first post in this series.

The fourth post in Unseen History can be read here.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:51 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 03, 2003

Unseen History: Ohrdruf 2

From an article in Yank Magazine on German atrocities, May 18, 1945

Ohrdruf, Germany -- The tankmen Combat Command A, 4th Armored Division, had taken this town two days before. Prisoners in Concentration Camp North (Stalag III) -- those who were too weak or too sick to travel -- had been killed the day before the doughs rolled in. The cold had preserved their bodies and deadened the stench so that you could walk around them and inspect them at fairly close range.

There were 31 bodies piled in one place and more than that tumbled together on top of each other in a nearby shack -- 65 in all. Some of the bodies were clothed in rags and some were completely naked. One body was that of an American soldier, and the few survivors pointed him out. Blood had caked the ground around the bodies into pancakes of red mud.

All the peoples of Europe were represented here among the survivors and the dead evidence of German efficiency. The Americans who went through the camp looked quietly at the dead and spoke softly to the living.

Col. Hayden Sears of Boston, Mass., CO of Combat Command A, said little as he looked around on the second day. The third day he assembled the leading citizens of Ohrdruf and took them to visit the camp of death.

The leading citizens were very much ashamed of what their fellow Germans had. done. "This is the work of only 1 percent of the German Army," said one of them. "You should not blame the rest."

Col. Sears spoke to them through an interpreter.

"Tell them they have been brought here to see with their own eyes what is reprehensible by any human standard," he said. "Tell them we hold the whole German nation responsible because of its support and toleration of the Nazi Government.

"Tell them so long as this kind of thing goes on, we must consider the German people our enemy.
--- Sgt. Saul Levitt

Click on picture for a larger version.

S & G 61325
THIS PHOTO SHOWS: Survivors tell American Soldiers and war correspondents the story of the massacre of their fellow inmates, who lie in a scattered heap on the ground before them. Approximately 30 prisoners were shot and left lying as the Fourth Armored Division approached the camp.

British-Combine-Acme Photo F 15481 from Sport and General.


Notes: The number 11317 appears in blue ink on the back of the letter beside red pencil initials that appear exactly as they do in the copy of the back of the photo below. My guess is that the American soldier in the center of the photo is Colonel Hayden Sears, based on the similarity of appearance with a known picture of Colonel Sears at Ohrdruf (Second picture down) Several of the survivors in that photo also appear in the one above.

Click on picture for a larger version.

THIS PHOTO SHOWS: A corner of the prison camp, showing a guard tower in the foreground. Trees were planted in neat even rows outside the (barbed) wire fences.
U.S. Signal Corps Photo (ETO-HQ-)45-30888

Notes: I have two copies of this photo, both somewhat damaged, presumably from being under a filing cabinet drawer for 30 years. They are the only photos I've ever seen of the outside of the camp. The "THIS PHOTO SHOWS" information above is pulled from both of them, numbered 11095 and 11096, respectively. Anything that appears in parentheses is my best guess as to what belongs there. I'm still not sure of the initials beside each number, the first letter could be any one of a number of cursive letters. I've added a scan of the back of 11096 so readers can judge for themselves.

Click on picture for a larger version.

For those of you happening upon these pictures for the first time, an explanation of how they came to appear on this site, as well as more information on the Ohrdruf work camp can be found in the first post in this series.

The third post in this series can be seen here.

Posted by Bigwig at 12:49 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 02, 2003

Unseen History

Holocaust deniers like David Irving have always had a hard time with my family. The idea that the Holocaust didn't happen, or that its extent was exaggerated was always considered lunacy. We had proof, you see.

Not that we're Jewish, or lost anyone in the camps. The closest we ever got to a connection of that sort (before my middle brother married above himself) was the lady who lived beside us when I was a child, and whose lawn I mowed for pocket money during my teenage years.

I never knew her as anything other than Dr. Blumenfeld. She was a professor at the college, a sad women who lived alone with only a Dachshund for company. As best as I remember she came to America from Germany in the thirties, and most if not all of the family she left behind perished.

For the most part I never thought of her. As a child I remember being scared of her. As a teenager I initially resented her, for she was very precise in her instructions when it came to mowing her lawn, then uncomfortable and nervous around her, as if she were a hideous cripple who had gotten into a too-small elevator with me.

The reasons my attitude changed were found in the back of a large metal Army Surplus filing cabinet, one of a number bought by Louisburg College in the late 1970's, presumably because they were cheap. It's one of the oldest junior colleges in America, but it's always suffered from financial troubles. It was given to my father, who stuck it in a corner of his office and ignored it for months.

In the bottom of the filing cabinet, stuck beneath the drawer were 20 black and white photos from World War II, mostly of piles of bodies. Some had this message stamped in red on the back;

Must be returned to
Office of War Information
Picture Division Library
224 West 57th Street
New York, N.Y.

Others had this ominous message;


All had descriptions glued to the back, usually a general overview of the circumstances in which the picture was taken, followed by a specific description of the picture contents. My father happened upon them the day he finally decided to use the heavy metal beast the administration had crammed into his office.

As best as we tell they have never been published anywhere. I remembered them when I first started this site, but could never get past the feeling that exhibiting them here was something akin to inviting people to come down to the local 7-11 for a Guernica showing.

The environment still doesn't feel right, but I decided a week or so ago while looking for a particular Will Rogers speech that withholding information from the Internet was as close to a electronic sin as one can get. Also, the photo and descriptions are aging rapidly, despite the acid free folders they've been stored in over the last 25 years, and I thought it best to put the photos and descriptions into a more accessible digital form before turning the lot over to a organization better equipped to care for them.

I never apologized to Dr. Blumenfeld for my attitudes towards her before she died. I don't know that I could have found the words to express the awkwardness I felt around her without giving offense at that age. I can only hope that she didn't notice. I think Dad may have shown these to her at one point. I don't care to think how painful that must have been for both of them.

Perhaps I can redress some small part of that wrong I did as a child to the good Doctor by posting the pictures. Given the present day situation in the Middle East, and the rising tides of an all too familiar anti-Semitism in parts of the progressive movement, perhaps they might also serve as a caution, of a fresh reminder of what happened the last time the West abandoned the children of Israel.


I'll post one or two a day; it takes time to scan them, research the backstory and transcribe the descriptions. I'll endeavor to keep each at the top of the site for most of each day.

The first two pictures are from Ohrdruf, one of the satellite labor camps associated with Buchenwald, and the first to be liberated by western forces.

On April 12, 1945, Ohrdruf was visited by Generals Eisenhower, Bradley and Patton. The Generals viewed piles of bodies, implements of torture, and a butcher's block used to smash gold fillings from teeth, among other sights. Patton became ill and reportedly refused to visit the punishment shed. As the tour progressed, Eisenhower's mood turned increasingly grim. As recounted by Abzug, Patton's aide Charles Codman described an encounter between Eisenhower and a G.I., when the soldier accidentally bumped into a Nazi ex-guard and giggled nervously: "General Eisenhower fixed him with a cold eye, and when he spoke, each word was like the drop off an icicle. 'Still having trouble hating them,' he said."


Following is the general description found on each of the Ohrdruf pictures. I've kept the mispellings, and added links where I can to more information. The specific descriptons, as well as any other information on a photo, appear beneath each.


The swift advance of the Third U.S. Army's famous Fourth Armored uncovered the horror of a Nazi SS murder camp at Ohrdruf, entered April 4, 1945, after the fall of Gotha, eight miles to the north. American soldiers who seized the camp found the courtyard littered with the bodies of Czechoslovakian, Russian, Belgian and French slave laborers, slain because they were too weak to be evacuated. In a shed, they found a stack of 44 naked and lime-covered bodies.

According to survivors, 3,000 to 4,000 prisoners had been killed by SS troops, 70 being slain just before the Americans reached the camp. The 80 survivors had escaped death or removal by hiding in the woods. They reported that an average 150 died daily, mainly from shooting or clubbing. The Nazi system was too feed prisoners a crust of bread a day, work them on tunnelling until they were too weak to continue, then exterminate them and replace them with another 150 prisoners daily.

Led by Colonel Hayden Sears of the Fourth Armored Division, prominent German citizens of the town of Ohrdruf saw with their own eyes the horrors of SS brutality during a conducted tour of the Ohrdruf charnel house April 8, 1945. As they stood over the slain prisoners, Colonel Sears said: "This is why Americans cannot be your friends..." The enforced tour of the Germans ended with a visit to a wood where 10 bodies lay on a grill, made of railway lines, ready for cremation. Colonel Sears asked a uniformed German medical officer: "Does this meet with your conception of the German master race?" The officer faltered and at last answered: "I cannot believe that Germans did this."

Click on picture for a larger version.

BIPPA EA 61491
THIS PHOTO SHOWS: These prisoners were too ill from lack of food and unsanitary conditions to move when the Fourth Armored Division approached the Ohrdruf camp, so the Germans shot them and left them.
U.S. Signal Corps Photo ETO-HQ-45-30885
The number "11097' has been stamped in blue ink on the back of the photo. Beside the number is a set of initials in red pencil. Lcr, or Fcr, perhaps.

Click on picture for a larger version.

S & G 61330
THIS PHOTO SHOWS: A closeup of the bodies of prisoners massacred and piled together. Their bodies bear the marks of Nazi brutality. British Combine - Acme Photo F from Sport and General.

The number "11304' has been stamped in blue ink on the back of the photo. Beside the number is a set of initials in red pencil. Lcr, or Fcr, perhaps.

Notes: Another picture of this atrocity, taken from a different angle.

This post has been edited for grammar.

The second post in this series can be seen here.

Posted by Bigwig at 01:11 AM | Comments (72) | TrackBack

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