An American film entitled “Nazi Concentration Camps” was shown On 29 November 1945, during the Nuremberg trial for the first time.
Perhaps when you see these photographs, you’ll say, “OK, so what’s left of your claim that the Germans took good care of their inmates”?
Of course, the photographs are shocking, but they must be viewed in context.
“I can read them in one way only, and that is that, whatever Hitler wanted or did not want, he most assuredly did not a want the mutual bombing to go on. He had not wanted it ever to begin. He wanted it, having begun, to be called off.” (Bombing Vindicated, p. 47).
For context, there were the terrible Allied bombings which destroyed the whole country, starting in 1943... The strategy followed by the British and Americans was simple: it consisted of destroying, not just German productive potential, but German communications and transports, to paralyze the country economically. Not to mention the cities razed to the ground to demoralize the population and add to the disorder and general disorganization.
On 14 May 1947, defense council for the former inspector of concentration camps, Oswald Pohl, explained this very clearly:
“As proof, the Prosecution showed several films intended to show general conditions after the collapse of Germany in 1945. There is hardly any need to insist on the fact that these conditions could not be considered as typical of the general conditions in the camps before and during the war. The massive air raids by the Allied air forces on the German domestic front and, more particularly, on communications, caused the collapse of all communications systems and German economic life as such, which seriously affected living conditions in Germany, including inside the camps. The conditions in the camps had to become inevitably more intolerable since a growing number of camps were being evacuated to escape the advance of the Allied armies; the result was that many of the prisoner of war camps which were still open were crammed, to the point where it became impossible to feed the prisoners sufficiently and provide them with the minimal hygiene.”
Buchenwald camp, of course, was no exception. An Internet site affiliated with the Jewish Heritage Museum, entitled “A Living Memorial of the Holocaust”, states that the number of prisoners increased from 37,319 in December 1943 to 63,084 in December 1944, reaching 80,436 by late March 1945.
A ferociously anti-Nazi book by Jean Pélissier, Camps de la Mort [Death Camps], published in October 1945, describes the deterioration in camp living conditions starting in 1944:
“Professor Richet […] was able to state that the food supply in 1944…
“…was based on bread (which consisted of 50 to 60 % potato starch), margarine, rutabaga soup, sometimes potatoes, barley or wheat, with a paltry and occasional supplement of margarine or sausage. The average calorie count of this meagre pittance was 1,750, or barely two thirds of daily requirements. This quantitative insufficiency resulted, in turn, in qualitative insufficiency: near-total absence of iron, calcium, vitamins A, D and E. This dietary imbalance, aggravated by very long working hours, resulted in process of slow starvation, which rapidly reached famine proportions in early 1945. Starting in February, in effect, food supplies were no longer sufficient to cover more than one third of physiological requirements, with approximately 1,050 calories. Result: development of infectious diseases, particularly tuberculosis, always associated with malnutrition (40 % of the inmates examined in the autopsy room were tubercular).
In Professor Richet’s words, the inmates had become ‘creatures who no longer seemed human: without fat, or musculature, or viscera’. Their psychological condition was often in accord with their physiological condition: they then lapsed into a process of profound intellectual decay. Professor Richet saw some of his companions, distinguished persons… go to the latrines eating their soup, and pick up pieces of food which they had dropped and which were contaminated by dirt and faecal matter. Many others, under the physical and psychic effect of this complex of hunger, stole or murdered people. Others kept the bodies of dead comrades near them and appeared at roll call propping the bodies up in hopes of claiming their ration. The overcrowding, in turn, was a terrible cause of insufficiency. One third of the inmates couldn’t even lie down, by night or by day. They were never alone; they never had any peace and quiet. This constant intermixing increased the mortality: from scarlet fever, erysipelas (15 % of these cases being fatal, with 1,526 cases per year out of 33,000 inmates), especially from pneumonia. There were also numerous cases of deaths from typhus and dysentery: 7,000 patients in the first four months of 1945, 3,500 of whom died.” If the Germans had really wanted the inmates to die of hunger, the conditions of the first months of 1945 would have existed in 1944 or even earlier. The fact is that Professor Richet’s observations prove the contrary. In 1944, food, while not abundant, of course,
…was”just sufficient”, in the words of a former deportee to the camp, René Marnot… who then went on to say: “beginning in December ,the food rations fell disastrously”. Therefore, the situation began to deteriorate dramatically in the last few months of 1944. Why?
This diagram confirms the statements made by Oswald Pohl’s defence attorney. After over a year of preparation, the Allied strategy of mass bombings was finally perfected in 1943, resulting in a tremendous increase in the tonnage of bombs dropped on the Reich in 1944 (+ 360 %).
Among the principal objectives were the industrial centres and means of communications. Despite the five “railway fire brigades” set up to repair the railways -- each with 1,000 workers -- the destruction of the railways made it far more difficult to supply the camps.
At Nuremberg, A German judge who inspected the camps, Konrad Morgen, explained: “Towards the end of the war, there was a general disorganisation of communications; supplies could no longer be delivered in the necessary quantities, the factories of chemical and pharmaceutical products were being systematically bombarded. There was a shortage of all medications. At the same time, due to the evacuations from the East, the camps were terribly overcrowded.” But perhaps you think German statements should not be trusted.
I will reply by citing two documents from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). A telegram sent by the ICRC to the American Secretary of State, Mr. Stettinius on 11 May 1945, reads as follows:
“POWS and civilian internees were able to receive emergency packages supplied by country of origin thanks to incessant ICRC efforts. These efforts were successful, despite difficulties of transport resulting from the war, on both sea and on land, in channelling supplies to the camps until mid-1944. Approximately three hundred tons of food, clothing and medications. This action was seriously compromised starting in October 1944 by the mass destruction of railway communications followed by…mass bombings and the destruction of road transport, despite incessant requests for transport from the ICRC to the Allied Powers since early 1944.
In a general report written later, the ICRC confirmed these remarks and recalled:
“Finally, the destruction of communications in Germany due to the intensification of the mass bombings, paralyzed assistance actions beginning at the beginning of 1944.
“Thus, in February 1945, the situation was so serious that the International Committee feared that it would have to cease all activity in favour of civilian inmates in the camps. The German railway network had, in fact, been largely destroyed, and the trucks made available to the International Committee […] were only sufficient for assistance to POWs”.
Such was the origin of the terrible situation in the camps during the last few months of the war.
These conditions were not the result of any deliberate policy on the part of the Germans: it was the result of the chaotic situation caused by the destruction of the Reich by Allied bombings.
But for the victors -- who wanted to justify their war of destruction followed by their policy of destroying National Socialism -- it was absolutely imperative to make people believe the contrary. It was absolutely imperative for the peoples of the world to view the horrors of the German concentration camp system in 1945 as the necessary and inevitable result of National Socialism.
This is why the Allied propaganda of 1945 always pretended that the situation of the last months had, in reality, prevailed constantly and consistently throughout all the camps, from the very outset. All they had to do was display a few photographs taken at the liberation of the camps, and then cite the mortality statistics for the last few months of the war.
Jean Pélissier’s book, cited above, states:
“Professor Richet was able to state that the Germans deliberately wished to kill all the old people, the weak, the sick, all those who could not work. A figure summarizes all this: between 1 January and 8 April 1945, there were an average of 40,000 inmates at Buchenwald; …It has been demonstrated with certainty that during the same period of time, there were 13,000 deaths: 2,000 in January, 5,400 in February, 5,623 in March. To compare, let us recall that, in Paris, in 1937-1938, only 33 to 34,000 persons died out of 2 and a half million inhabitants.” Not only was Professor Richet comparing apples with oranges (the situation in Paris in peace time had nothing to do with the situation at Buchenwald when the country was being ravaged by war), but he was careful never to mention that these deaths took place in the last four months, that is, the very worst months of the war.
At Nuremberg, the French prosecutor produced an ”Indictment of Germans Guilty of War Crimes in Violation of International Conventions on Soldiers and Civilians” (doc. F-274).
In the chapter entitled: “Life in the Camp”, we read: “In the [Buchenwald] hospital statistics from 1 January 1943 to 15 April 1945, we counted 22,761 deaths”.
If the authors had been honest, they would have produced the diagram shown opposite, prepared based on camp statistics. In that case, it would have been clear that, starting in 1943, living conditions in Buchenwald had deteriorated drastically, implying a sudden increase in the mortality rate. As for the cause of the deterioration…the diagram showing the tonnage of bombs dropped on the Reich would have permitted people to identify the cause rather easily.
In the same document, the authors stressed: “From 1 January to 15 April 1945, 11, 500 inmates are said to have died at Dachau from lack of medical care, particularly in block 30, which was reserved for the sick and invalids” (id.). The dishonesty of this example is even more obvious…since a diagram of the mortality rate at Dachau shows that 1945 was far from representative of the other years of the camp’s existence. In 1945, the mortality rate almost tripled compared to 1944, four times higher than in 1942.
This is how the Allied propaganda of 1945 was able to make the world believe that German concentration camps were really “death camps” from the outset. Sixty years later, the propaganda is still the same. This famous photo taken at Buchenwald is reproduced in a great many books for the young. Here we have the book by Franck Segrétain entitled: La Seconde Guerre Mondiale [The Second World War]… and here, in the work by Angela Gluck Wood, entitled: Shoah. At no time do the captions reveal that this was the situation during the last few weeks of the war, when Germany was already totally destroyed.
Another example may be found in the work jointly edited by Annette Wieviorka and Michel Pierre, entitled : La Seconde Guerre Mondiale [The Second World War](éd. Casterman, 1999).
Page 92, a photo shows a British pastor before a mass grave filled with bodies. The caption says: “In April 1945, at Bergen-Belsen, the British dug mass graves to bury the thousands of bodies”.
In 1945, the photos taken by the British during the liberation of the camp were circulated all over the world. Here are the photos that were shown at Nuremberg...
Even today, photographs of Bergen-Belsen are considered a symbol of “Nazi barbarity”. In a supplement entitled: “Goodby to the 20th Century”, Paris-Match published ”photos which we have no right to forget.”.
To illustrate the “absolute shame” of the Holocaust, the author of the chapter chose a close-up of a mass grave at Bergen-Belsen. The caption says: “Bergen-Belsen, near Hanover. On 15 April 1945, when the British 11th Armoured Division took over the camp, the SS had not even sealed the mass graves, where bodies lay piled up by the hundreds”. In conformity with 1945 propaganda, the caption was intended to induce the reader to believe that the bodies shown were those of people massacred in a systematic extermination program concocted by the Nazis.
At the same time, certain other photos taken during the liberation of the camps or shortly afterwards have not enjoyed large-scale circulation.
Not only do these photos show adult inmates in good health, but they show children, some of them quite obviously chubby-cheeked. Dozens of other photos like this one can be found at the Imperial War Museum in London.
One particularly interesting photograph to be found at the Imperial War Museum is this one, which has never been published in German books on the concentration camp system.
Numbered BU-7993, the caption says: “Father Vincent Fay, military pastor at the 9th General Hospital, baptising a baby, Henji Dorochova, who was born at Belsen. The baby is being carried by his mother, Raissa, from Voroshilovgrad, in the Ukraine. During the British rescue operation, the new mothers were asked if they wished to have their babies baptised, and if so, according to which religion.” I consider this proof that babies were born and survived in this camp, which is obviously incompatible with the claim that it was an “extermination camp”. But why are these photos so different from the others?
Why were there people in perfectly good health right next...to whole piles of emaciated bodies?
What were living children doing there, right next…to dead children ?
A site never suspected of “denial” raises a corner of the veil. On Bergen-Belsen, we read: “It was only over the course of the end phase, when the inmate convoys arrived at Bergen-Belsen from the evacuated camps in the fall of 1944, that the camp very rapidly became the scene of a vast tragedy. The barracks, the hygienic installations, the infirmary care, were insufficient, and the poor conditions got worse from day to day. Between January 1945 and 15 April 1945, the date of the liberation of the camp by British soldiers, between 80,000 and 90,000 persons were transferred to Bergen-Belsen in one hundred convoys. The victims of disease, particularly typhus, famine and exhaustion, rose by the tens of thousands. When the British reached the camp on 15 April, the soldiers were overwhelmed by an infernal vision: perhaps 10,000 bodies still lay there, unburied, where they had died. The barely living could hardly be distinguished them from the dead. “ //
Although relatively honest, this text might lead one to believe that the Germans simply shipped the inmates to Bergen-Belsen and were content to let them die there (no doubt hoping to dispose of the bodies before the arrival of the Allies).
One author even says so, without beating around the bush. In a book entitled: Auschwitz. Les nazis et la solution finale [Auschwitz : The Nazis and the Final Solution]…
Laurence Rees writes that ”the Germans made almost no effort to house or feed this massive flow of humanity”. But the truth is quite different.
Since 1 December 1944, the camp was commanded by Joseph Kramer. It was Kramer who received the British from the 11th Armoured Division in order to explain the situation to them and guide them around the camp in April 1945. Taken prisoner, he was brought to trial with the members of his team.
Among the defendants was the famous Irma Grese, a very young woman guard (aged 22).
As a timid young girl, Grese had originally wished to become a nurse. When she failed her exams, she accepted a job as guard at Ravensbrück (which resulted in her getting kicked out her parents’ house)…
Later, she was assigned to Auschwitz, in Josef Kramer‘s team, then at Bergen-Belsen. Sentenced to death and hanged…
Grese was long considered the incarnation of the “cruel beauty” of the Nazis.
During trial, Major Winwood, who defended Josef Kramer, brought up the logistical problems caused by the Allied bombings and the efforts of his client to palliate these problems, often without success.
He first explained that in December 1944, the camp was already overcrowded: it had 15,257 inmates for only 2,000 triple bunk beds. As a result, Josef Kramer ordered 3, 000 triple bunk beds; but already his order had already been taken into account, no delivery was made, because the lack of transport.
On 1 March 1945, he sent the concentration camp administration a complaint in the form of a letter in which he wrote: “Recently, triple bunk beds or bunks were allocated to the camp several times by the Amt B.III, but always from regions which were no longer in contact with us.”
At his trial, he confirmed his remarks, declaring: “I was supposed to receive 3,000 triple bunk beds from Czechoslovakia, but they never arrived because the trains were no longer moving”. As for bedding, the situation was a disaster.
Nevertheless, with regards to hygiene and food, relatively speaking things were not too bad: “the sanitary installations were sufficient, there were toilets in each barracks” (p. 154); …“the food situation was relatively good, since there were only 15,000 prisoners” (p. 160).
The problem was that Josef Kramer received an order to accept all convoys that arrived at the camp, which was already full. And not only did the convoys arrive en masse (since many of the camps were being evacuated in the face of hostile offensives) but the chaos of the last few months also meant that most of them turned up unexpectedly, almost unannounced. So the situation rapidly got worse.
At his trial, Josef Kramer explained: “From the biggest concentration camps, I received a telegram one or two days in advance [to tell me there was a convoy], but for the great majority of the transports, the only notice I had was when someone at Belsen railway station telephoned me to say that I should wait to receive a transport…within half an hour. It was only at the station that I learned where the transport was coming from, how many persons were on board and whether they were men or women. Sometimes, the station master couldn’t even tell me how many persons there were.
When I said he should have known, he said: “Well, we were fleeing [the enemy advance] and suddenly we found 10, 12 or 15 carriages at the station. We pushed as many people as we could inside, started the train, and that’s how we got here”. I wanted to give you this example so that you might know the conditions that prevailed during the months of January, February and March. The prisoners also arrived both by train and on foot”. Then, although sleeping conditions were not very good as it was, most of the new arrivals arrived at the camp with no personal effects.
Josef Kramer recalled: “In most of the transports, people arrived with the clothing they had on. All those who left Auschwitz had a change of clothing and two blankets, but because of the great distances that they had to walk, they threw them away along the roads. The 100 or 200 blankets I had were absolutely insufficient for the thousands of prisoners that I received”. But a much more serious problem soon arose: resupply.
Still at his trial, Josef Kramer explained: “Later [i.e., after December 1944], when the new transports arrived, the food resupply problem got even worse. The food came from Celle and Hamburg, and I was supposed to furnish the vehicles myself. A company at Hamburg, with a small subsidiary at Bergen, supplied some of the food;…
The bread came from […] Bergen, but although we had increased camp staff, the authorities told me I could only have 10,000 round loaves of bread per week. During the winter months, it was hardly possible to get potatoes and vegetables, and although I was able to obtain bread from Celle and Hanover, the air raids destroyed some of the bakeries, roads and railways. Due to the intensification of the air raids, it was the first time that bread could no longer reach the camp. I entered into contact with a bakery at Saltau and obtained about a thousand round loaves per week, but with the increasing numbers of inmates, supplies were extremely short. Because the camp staff was between 30 and 40,000 persons, I attempted to obtain food supplies at Hamburg and sent all the vehicles I had, both day and night. Because of the cold weather, food supplies were getting more difficult to obtain; my administrative team was told that the big cities and towns had to come first”. In February, the food situation deteriorated even further because of the sudden lack of fats.
Once again, this was because of the bombings.
During the trial of the camp personnel, a former SS man, Herta Ehlert, explained:
“I went to the kitchen and spoke to the director and superintendant; they told me that they had not received any fats from the reserve. I went to see Unterscharführer Müller, who was stock superintendant; he told me all the wagons had been destroyed during an air raid and he couldn’t do anything about it.” Far from giving up, however, Josef Kramer gave orders to alleviate the shortage.
H. Ehlert continued: “At this time, I met Kramer; I talked to him about the problem, I told him the mortality rate was increasing and that the prisoners could not be kept alive on just watery soup. He had commandoes of prisoners pick potatoes up off the ground. These were mashed and then mixed into the soup, so that the prisoners had the impression that they’d gotten something in their stomachs”. But the consequences of the air raids were often irreparable. This was the case for the clothing and medical supplies which Josef Kramer had ordered.
Called to testify at the Belsen Trial, Rosina Kramer, his wife, recalled:
One evening, just after an air raid alert, [my husband] was pacing around, and he said: “Now the railway car or lorry that I had been waiting for, for three months; I have just heard that it has been blown up at Hanover during an air raid; I no longer have the slightest bit of bandages or clothing”. Josef Kramer was deprived of everything: beds, blankets, clothing, first aid medical equipment, fats…
The worst thing was a serious event that took place during the month of February 1945: the appearance of typhus and eruptive fever. The former commander recalled:
“The transports arriving from Natzweiler work camp brought eruptive fever and those coming from eastern Germany brought typhus. When Dr. Horstmann brought me the case of eruptive fever, I ordered the closure of the camp before alerting Berlin. In reply, they told me the camp had to be reopened, that I was supposed to accept all future transports and that 2,500 women from Ravensbrück were going to arrive”. Without waiting, Josef Kramer expressed his dissatisfaction and his concerns for the future.
In a letter dated 1 March, addressed to the concentration camps administration, he described the terrible conditions prevailing at Bergen-Belsen. He recalled that, due to the lack of available stocks and transport within the region, winter reserves at Bergen-Belsen had been expected to guarantee subsistence until 20 February. A policy of great economy had permitted the camp to keep going a bit longer; there still reserves of turnips for six days and reserves of potatoes for eight, but no more. As for the bread, there wasn’t any, nor had there been any for four days, due to the disruption of communications with Hanover. He therefore demanded that a solution be found in the next few days.
Josef Kramer also demanded emergency boilers for the kitchens.”All the camp boilers were working day and night. We should face great difficulties if one of these boilers quit working”. Moreover, he issued a serious warning concerning sanitary conditions in the camp.
Within a month, he said, the mortality rate had more than quadrupled, rising from 60-70 deaths per day at the beginning of February to 250-300 at the beginning of March. He added:
“The hot air disinfection device is working around the clock, but it is not working properly now and it sometimes breaks down for several days. When SS Stabsarztführer Lolling visited the camp, he promised me a ‘short wave disinfection machine’. To use it, I need a more powerful transformer, which, according to the information I received […], was available in Berlin. Despite my urgent need for the device, it is currently impossible for me to get it in Berlin”.
Finally, he demanded “above all, beds, blankets, kitchen equipment — all for 20,000 inmates”.
This letter of 1 March is of great importance, because it shows that the camp commandant was struggling in vain, despite the general conditions at the time, to improve conditions for the inmates. If Bergen-Belsen had been intended as a “death factory” commanded by a “sadist”, Kramer would never have written this letter. On the contrary, he would have been quite happy with the situation…
Eighteen days later, on the orders of his superiors, Rudolf Höss came to inspect Bergen-Belsen in order to render an account of the situation. Josef Kramer recalled: “He saw the whole camp and told me that what he had seen that day, he had never seen anywhere else”.
Here again, if Bergen-Belsen had really been a “death factory”, Höss would have been satisfied; he would even have congratulated the commandant for his success in organising such an efficient extermination centre. But that wasn’t what happened, quite the contrary.
Josef Kramer continued: “We went back to the office and had a conversation to try to find out what we could do to alleviate the situation. My proposals were to stop [the arrival] of all the new convoys […]. We discussed the utilisation of materials intended for the erection of new barracks. The idea was to build 40 barracks and house 100 inmates in each of them. The Obergruppenführer decided to send a telegram on the spot […]”. This is really the proof that the authorities were concerned about the situation and wished to take urgent measures.
But the situation got even worse. During the Belsen trial, the person responsible for the supplying the kitchens and food warehouses at Belsen between 12 and 28 March 1945, Hermann Müller, explained: “Starting on 23 March, the bread supply became very irregular because of the air raids”.
Cross-examined by the Prosecution, he stated: ”We had enough bread until mid-March, but then the supply problem got even worse, and, starting on 22 or 23 March, we got practically no more bread”. This was all the more disastrous because the camp population was increasing constantly:
“Until 13 April, explained Josef Kramer, transports [of deportees] arrived day and night”...28,000 persons arrived” (ibid., p. 168). 15,000 of them were lodged in improvised barracks in camp no. 2. Asked what he did to feed these deportees from camp no. 2, he replied: “I couldn’t give them anything because the available stocks were intended to last a certain period of time, and they were intended for the prisoners of our own camp” (id.). Some people might think that, with the camp’s five trucks, Josef Kramer could have gotten alone to obtain supplies locally. But this was impossible because the Allies were attacking and destroying everything that moved.
A official of the ICRC wrote in his report: “The last days were marked by constant attacks by airplanes against small towns and roads […]. Hundreds of burnt-out cars, bodies of horses and human beings, most of them German refugees, lay along both sides of the road”. [voy. Documents sur…, p. 128].
Let us also quote Grand-Amiral Dönitz who, in his memoires, recalls the following, describing the 28th of April 1945:
“Columns of refugees obstructed the roads from Plön, with military vehicles overloaded with wounded, soldiers and civilians. The Anglo-American bombers machine-gunned them, causing deaths and inflicting wounds. Upon their appearance, the peasants left their fields to take shelter”. Then the inevitable, final disaster: the trucks from Bergen-Belsen camp were destroyed during an air raid.
At his trial, Josef Kramer explained: “Obtaining food [in early April 1945] was almost impossible because the front had broken down, and, even worse, transport was very difficult. My own trucks were blown to bits during a dive bomber attack before the arrival of the Allies, and the only thing I had left was a single truck”. Nothing could be done for camp no. 2 and its thousands of prisoners. The situation was apocalyptic, even in the main camp.
Water was so short that, during the last week, they were using emergency cisterns, but only for the kitchen: there was no question of washing, despite the large numbers of typhus victims.
It is hardly surprising that one SS officer working at Bergen-Belsen later declared:
“When I camp back to the camp for the third time, at the end, I didn’t feel well, because of the horrible smell”. For food, there was just a bit of soup.
One defendant, Karl Francioh, who worked in the camp kitchens at the women’s camp in April 1945, recalled:
“Over the course of my period of activity, [the prisoners received] one litre of coffee in the morning, but not always; for lunch, a litre of soup; and for dinner, the same thing. Sometimes, there was bread twice a week, sometimes nothing, and in the end, there was no more bread at all”.
The situation was such that the kitchen had to be guarded by several men [“several [guards] stood round the kitchen”, deposition of K. Francioh (Ibid., p. 296)] to prevent the theft of what little remained. In the men’s camp, it was even worse.
Interrogated as to whether or not there was enough food during the last few days of the camp’s existence, a former deportee, Josef Trzos, remarked: “No. In our block, we only got 300 litres of soup for 800 people”.
This is further confirmed by another former deportee, Antoni Aurdzieg, who stated: “At Belsen, there was no bread, and we received a half-litre of soup per day” (Ibid., p. 469). Here, again, the situation was such that exceptional measures had to be taken:
Thus, during the distribution of food in a block for sick peoples, each window and each door had to be guarded to prevent the intrusion of other starving inmates attempting to steal the meagre pittance intended for the very ill.
In a final convulsion of horror, even the morgue had to be guarded, because of a case of cannibalism. A deportee had broken into the building at night and stolen certain ”body parts”. Faced with this situation, which had gotten totally out of control, Josef Kramer was utterly helpless.
In reality, Josef Kramer was neither a sadist, nor a criminal, not even a man who regarded the death of inmates with indifference; he was the command of an overcrowded camp dominated by apocalyptic conditions, with almost no beds, blankets, clothing, medical supplies, pharmaceuticals or food. Completely powerless, he remained at his post until the very end, in accordance with orders received, and finally surrendered his camp to the British.
When, after having visited the areas and having seen the filth, the bodies, etc., a British soldier, Derrick Sington, wisecracked:
“You’ve made a fine hell here”, to which Kramer replied: “It became one in the last few days”. But this truth was of no interest to the victor. When the British found that these scenes of horror could be skilfully exploited by British war propaganda...
Kramer was apprehended, put in chains, and forced to pose in the midst of a pile of dead bodies.
This is how a simple commandant, over his head and powerless, whose name would normally have been quickly forgotten, became ’"The Man with a Heart of Stone”, the "worst torturer in history".
A booklet published in Belgium in May 1945 states:
“The worst torturer in history, Joseph Kramer, was able, to his credit, to his credit, of 400 VICTIMS PER DAY […]. This man with a heart of stone was capable of burning the living and the dead, all together, sending women from the vicinity to dance around the bonfires while shrieking hysterically”. A few weeks beforehand, however, French news radio bulletin had broadcast the following report:
The principal cause of the situation in the camps in 1945, was there: a Germany totally dislocated by the terrible Allied bombardments. Not only did the victors refuse to acknowledge this, but, with diabolical cynicism, they took advantage of photographs of the liberated camps, particularly, at Bergen-Belsen.
In this British report, the commentator spoke of “the shrivelled and tortured bodies of men and women who had been practically murdered”. When the Belsen Trial was held, the press merely relayed the propaganda of the victors:
For more than sixty years, there has been no change in the propaganda. They show horrible photos completely out of context, i.e., artificially disconnecting the history of the Third Reich, i.e., the bombings and the war, from the history of the camps. Not a word about the terrible results of Allied bombing.
As to what the defendants might have been able to defend themselves, to explain what happened, the court historians are utterly indifferent. The only thing about the trials that interests them is the indictments and sentences.
Sentences which very often closed the mouths of men who might be able to defend themselves given a chance. Today, all history needs to be rewritten…