Thomas Toivi Blatt and his book

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Laurentz Dahl
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Thomas Toivi Blatt and his book

Postby Laurentz Dahl » 1 decade 3 years ago (Wed Sep 20, 2006 1:04 am)

I recently got my hands on From the Ashes of Sobibor (published by Northwestern University Press in 1997) by Sobibor "survivor" Thomas Blatt, which some of you may remember as the guy who built the Blatt model of Sobibor displayed at deathcamps.org.

In this thread I will point out some peculiarities, to put it nicely, which can be found in this book.

Let me first quote some lines from "Acknowledgements":

Shorter excerpts of my story has appeared in several publications. The story of Farmer Bojarski's attempt to kill me appeared in the Polish magazine Swiat (May 1953 [Blatt emigrated to Israel in 1958, see p.xxi]) and in the Santa Barbara [...] News & Review ("No Time for Tears", December 1977). My interview with Karl Frenzel [a Sobibor guard sentenced to life in prison 1965 and apparently released in 1983] appeared in various forms in the German magazine Stern ("Der Morder und seine Zeuge" [The Murderer and his Witness] March 1984), the Israeli newspaper Haaretz (27 April 1984), and Jewish Currents ("Blood and Ashes" December 1978). My testimony about Sobibor, taken in 1945, is on record at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw; my testimony is also to be found in the files of trials of Sobibor Nazis, which can be found in Central Documentation Center in Ludwigsburg, Germany.




And from the preface:

My diary pages were often lost, then reconstructed, only to be lost again. After the war I was able to recover about 40 percent of my original writings. In 1952 I produced a manuscript based on my notes and offered the material to the Communist publishing company in Poland. They wanted to publish the book, but their way, which would have compromised many of the essential facts. Since I did not agree to this, the manuscript had to be put away for another six years.

[Blatt then writes how the remarks of an anonymous "well-known" Auschwitz "survivor", who had never heard of Sobibor and thought Blatt lied discouraged him from publishing his book for another 20 years.]

When the television miniseries Holocaust was released in 1978, people started to write more about those times. Some excerpts of my story was published in magazines and newspapers [...] My complete book, however, remained unpublished.

[...]

At long last i have completed my story of human suffering and endurance, a story that sounds unbelievable at times, even to me, although every word is true.

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Postby Laurentz Dahl » 1 decade 3 years ago (Wed Sep 20, 2006 1:53 am)

I will know continue by looking in the back of the book, where the interview with Sobibor guard Karl Frenzel from 1983 is included as an appendix. This interview is introduced with the following words:

Translation from the German of an April 1983 interview between Thomas Toivi Blatt and Karl August Frenzel, a commandant at Sobibor. This interview was subsequently included in an article about Blatt and Frenzel, "Der Morder und sein Zeuge" by Ulrich Volklein in Stern 13 (22 March 1984); reprinted here by permission. Blatt testified at several of Frenzel's trials. After one of these trials, Frenzel requested to speak with Blatt. They met in a hotel room in Hagen, Germany.


Thus, the "interview" was not a proper pre-arranged interview, but apparently a meeting mano a mano between Blatt and Frenzel. Were are the witnesses to this interview? Did Blatt bring a tape recorder with him to the hotel to record what Frenzel had to say to him. We are not told, at least not in this book.

If we look at the information on Frenzel from deathcamps.org (http://www.deathcamps.org/sobibor/perpetrators.html) we find that Frenzel was born in 1911 and was allagedly a T4 member from 1939 onwards. He allegedly installed gas chambers in Hadamar. He had the rank of SS Oberscharfuhrer and took command of Sobibor after the revolt in autumn 1943, and was later sent to fight partisans in northern Italy. He was arrested by Americans and held as a POW, but released in late 1945. He worked (apparently under his own name) in a film studio in Gottingen but was arrested in 1962 and 1966 sentenced to life in prison in the Sobibor trial in Hagen. This judgement was confirmed on 4 October 1985.

Because of his bad state of health he was released and still alive in 1996 at an old peoples home near Hannover.


In the interview, Frenzel repeatedly states how regretful he is and how he world like to apologize to all the "250 000" Sobibor victims. The following passages from the short (8 page) interview are worthy of note:

BLATT: But you didn't prevent any of it from happening.

FRENZEL: You don't know what went on inside of us. You don't understand the circumstances in which we found ourselves.

[...]

BLATT: Duty. That's what it always comes down to, duty. Why did you club my father to the ground immediately upon arrival? Was that your duty too?

FRENZEL: I don't remember.

[...]

BLATT: (...) You took him to Lager III, the crematorium, and shot him

FRENZEL: That wasn't me.

[...]

BLATT: (...) and you were the one who took them to the gas chambers.

FRENZEL: ...no, not I.

[...]

FRENZEL: (...) Wagner wanted to send them [a mother and her child] to the gas chamber. I arranged it so they wouldn't have to go the gas chamber. The mother worked in the laundry. The girl was about ten years old.

BLATT: Neither one survived the camp.

FRENZEL: I don't know. But it is incomprehensible to me that I should be accused of having killed children.

[...]

FRENZEL: We found out about it when we arrived at Sobibor. When we received our orders, we were told that it was a work camp. what we had to do was guard the camp.

BLATT: When you returned home on furlough, did you talk with your family about what was going on?

FRENZEL: No. That was a state secret. It was forbidden to talk about it even with one's closest family on penalty of concentration camp or death.

[...]

BLATT: What does your family, your children, say about it all today.

FRENZEL: My wife is no longer alive. The Russians destroyed her in 1945. They raped her, then she had abdominal typhus, of which she died.

BLATT: And your children?

FRENZEL: The children detest it all and denounce it as a crime. But they are still on my side. They don't detest me. They condemn all that happened. They also saw the Holocaust film. We had a discussion then.

BLATT: Do you think a film can recreate this?

FRENZEL: ... not recreate. No.

BLATT: The reality was worse...

FRENZEL: ...much worse. Something like this can not be recreated.(...)

[...]

BLATT: How do you respond when Germans say that it is not true, that it never happened?

FRENZEL: When my children and friends [how big is the chance of meeting a gas chamber skeptic as a life time prisoner?] ask me whether it is true [didn't Frenzel just say that detest and denounce it all as a crime?] I tell them, yes, it is true. And when they say, but it is impossible, then I tell them again, it is really true. It is wrong to say that it never happened.

BLATT: Then why don't you go to the newspapers and tell them, I was there, I worked there, and it is true? [as if the newspapers were saying something to the contrary..]

FRENZEL: If I were to go there and tell them that I was part of it and that all of it is true - these five and a half million Jews were murdered - I would be afraid.

BLATT: Of whom?

FRENZEL: of neo-Nazis

BLATT: Are they that strong?

FRENZEL: No they are weak and should be outlawed.

BLATT: If they are that weak, why are you afraid of them? why don't you tell. You have much to tell the world.

FRENZEL: They are here and there. If I went to the press - they have their connections. ["neo-Nazis" in the strongly left wing dominated German press?]

FRENZEL: (...) It is, was my heart's desire to have a heart-to-heart talk (...)


Based on the little we know of Frenzel's later proceedings, it seems likely that. if the interview actually took place (Frenzel confirming the overall story but denying that he had anything to do with gassings and murders seems to point to its authencity), then Frenzel, an old man of bad health, was probably on some kind of release while the decision was taken whether he was to be set free or not, or he was released just to give the interview and confirm the Holocaust so as to silence the growing number of "deniers".

The interesting thing is that there seems to be more than one version of this interview. In the notes to Blatt's book, we find the following three sentences:

p.232:
In his 1983 interview with me, SS Frenzel admitted that the Nazis were ready to liquidate all the prisoners if the camp perimeter was penetrated. See appendix.


p.233:
[numbers of escaped Sobibor prisoners given, then sources given:] author's interview with Karl Frenzel, Hagen, Germany, April 1983 (see appendix)


p.233:
The official search [for the Sobibor escapees] was ended on October 21 (author's interview with Karl Frenzel, see appendix).


None of those topics are mentioned, at all, in the interview as given as an appendix on p.235-242 in From the Ashed of Sobibor. If this interview, translated from the Stern article, was different from the ones published in Haaretz 1984 or in Jewish Currents of 1978 (a misprint for 1988 or a slip-up revealing discarded earlier claims of when the "interview" was "given"), why did not Blatt and the Northwestern University Press decide to publish the full version of it?

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Postby Laurentz Dahl » 1 decade 3 years ago (Wed Sep 20, 2006 2:47 am)

Blatt has the following to say on Lager III in the notes to his book (p.231-232):

Lager III was were the victims met their end. Located in the northwestern part of the camp, there was only two ways to enter Lager III from Lager II. The camp staff and personnel entered through a small, nondescript gate. The entrance for victims was also the place of their earthly exit: it descended immediately into the gas chambers, which were decorated with flowers, a Star of David, and the inscription "Bathhouse." Security in Lager III was extremely tight, not only to prevent escape, but also to keep the curious and non-essential workers out. Barbed wire braided with tree branches prevented workers from other parts of the camp from looking in.


Thus, Blatt never saw the inside of Lager III and the gas chamber building. In his book, he only claims to have seen the fence and heard the screams from the victims and the sound of an engine.

In the early days of the camp, approximately 85 000 corpses were buried in huge pits about 200 feet long, 50 feet wide, and 25 feet dep. In the second half of 1942, special cremation sites were built. (...) Each device was able to consume two to three thousand bodies at one time. Corpses from graves were burned together with bodies from incoming transports. The pyre was sometimes over three yards high when doused with kerosene and ignited.


This is also details which Blatt could not have been aware of while in the camp. If one read Arads book Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, one finds out that Sobibor is situated in a swampy area, and that the Sobibor prisoners when planning to escape through a tunnel decided to not dig deeper than 1,6 meters below ground, since they were afraid of striking ground water (p.311). How then could the burial pits be deeper than 7,6 meters? And how could 3-5 of those pits (which would respectively hold around 20 000 corpses) fit into the area of Lager III shown in the Blatt model as not being covered by buildings or "roasts"? (if the pits were real they had to be at most 2.5 meters deep, which would render the total area at least 3 times as large):

http://www.deathcamps.org/sobibor/blatt.html

Blatt also states (p.112) that there was a "Waldkommando" of around 40 men who had to work in the forest "three miles from the camp" to provide the "roasts" with fuel. This force of 40 men thus managed to supply the fuel necessary for burning 250 000 corpses to ashes, all under a four month period.


More to come.

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Postby Carto's Cutlass Supreme » 1 decade 3 years ago (Wed Sep 20, 2006 12:55 pm)

Very interesting. Nice work Laurentz.

That "take my word for it this conversation happened." Is often fishy in the holocaust realm. It reminds me of the supposed content of the interview around 1971 with Treblinka Commandant Franz Stangl, by British Jewish reporter Gitta Sereny. The man conveniently died like one day after the final interview. So he could never comment on the truthfulness of what she ended up writing.

Lubomyr Prytulak in the now forced-out UKAR.org pointed out all the problems with Sereny's interview. How apparently Sereny didn't tape the interview, so we just have to rely on her word.

I think he discussed Blatt too, but that site is gone.

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Postby Laurentz Dahl » 1 decade 3 years ago (Mon Oct 02, 2006 3:38 am)

Blatt and the phantom fires of Belzec

Toivi Blatt claims to have seen fires and smelled a stench (supposedly of burning and decmposing bodies) while travelling by train (under an assumed identity to evade the Nazis) past Belzec.

Page 46-47:

It was one in the morning, time to get ready for the train. Slowly, one after another, we departed. The date is etched in my memory: October 26, 1942.
It was a cold fall night. We crept from building to building until, reaching the vincinity of the train station, we hid behind the switchman's house and waited. Our guide passed out the tickets, purchased in advance.
(...)
I sat close to Wolf. Our turned-up collars hid our faces. We pretended to be asleep. But my mind raced. Will it work? Will somebody recognize us? Will our guide at least be honest? Or will he kill us someplace near the border, forcing us first to write a letter home that we were safely across, so he could cheat others? We had heard many such tales. Such fearful thoughts bore into my mind like a drill.
(...)
At the Zawada station, who should come into our darkened compartment but my former boss, Tadek Solecki! We were terrified. Suppose he recognize us? We hid our faces in our collars. We were lucky. He got off at the next stop.
Suddenly a kind of subdued anxiety spread among the passengers. They closed the windows; some lit cigarettes. What had happened? Why did the talk turn to whispers? I caught scraps of sentences. "They gas... fat for soap." Despite the closed windows, the odor of rotting flesh seeped through.
BELZEC! Of course! I grew numb with shock. We were passing near one of the rumored death factories! My heart pounding, I looked out the window. There were scarce woods, then, in the distance, I saw flames - now fading, now shooting higher into the sky. This was the destiny I was trying to escape. The smell receded as the train raced on, but I could still see the reflection of fire in the sky.


Note here that Blatt confirms that there were rumors spread about a "soap factory" at Belzec (cf Wiesenthal's 1946 articles on "soap factory Belzec") as well as the apparently wide-spread rumors (probably spread by Jewish-Bolshevik resistance in the gettos) of Nazis having their victims write fake postcards to calm their relatives and making them believe that they were taken to the occupied parts of the USSR - a rumor later integrated in the Operation Reinhardt narrative.

Blatt supposedly later passed by Belzec again on a train and saw the same sight (p.78 ):

As I had six months earlier, I now passed Belzec. Again the same horrible stench and flames. The Germans showed no interest. Could it be they were unaware of the death camps, coming from the front? I saw no unusual reactions, no understanding looks or conversations about it, but Krauze, who did understand, watched me intently.
My God, I thought, nothing has changed in these six months(2). Six months! How many days...hours? And over there they are burning people...Jews, people like ME! Will the fire never stop? Is there no help?...No I mustn't think about it.


The note (2) to the above passage reads (p.229):
(2) The Belzec camp stopped exterminating the Jews at the end of 1942, but the cremation of the bodies stored in huge graves continued for several months in 1943.


Thus Blatt claims to have seen fires and smelled the stench of decomposed bodies from a train passing by Belzec at two times:
- October 26 1942 circa 01:00
- six months later, that would mean in late march or early april. Blatt was interned at Sobibor on April 28 1943 (p.3). On April 18 the Izbica getto were Blatt and his parents hid themselves was searched through by the Germans (p.82-83) and some time passed between this event and the day when Blatt saw Belzec for the second time, which would have this second sighting somewhere in mid-to-late March 1943.

The problem with Blatt witnessing fires at Belzec in October 26 1942 and late March 1943 lies in that this contradicts the official version on when the cremations at Belzec took place.

Arad states in Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, p.173:

The opening of the mass graves in Belzec and the cremation of the corpses removed from them began with the interruption of the arrival of transports and of the killing activities there in mid-December 1942. At that time there were about 600 000 corpses of murdered Jews in the pits of the camp.


Arad then quotes on the same and following page the testimony from a SS Scharfuhrer named Heinrich Gley who supposedly served in Belzec at the time of the alleged cremations. Gley stated that:

Then the unearthing and cremation of the bodies began. It lasted from November 1942 until March 1943. The cremation was conducted day and night, without interruption.


Arad then cites a "concluding report" from "an official Polish committee investigating German crimes in the Lublin area" which states that (p.173)

From December 1942 the arrival of transports with Jews to the Belzec camps [sic] came to a standstill. The Germans then started to erase systematically the trails of their crimes. They started to remove from the graves, with special cranes, the corpses of the murdered, pour over them some highly flammable material, and cremate them in large heaps [...] The burning of corpses was finished in March 1943.


On the same page, Arad gives his final verdict as to the date of the last cremations:

The cremation of all the murdered in Belzec was accomplished by the end of April 1943.

Arad gives no explanation to why he claims that the cremations finished in April, when the eye witness testimonies claims March.

Anyway, according to the established version of the Belzec legend, Toivi Blatt could not have seen fires or smelled decaying bodies at Belzec on October 26 1942, since the unearthing and cremation of bodies supposedly did not start until about 2 months later, in December 1942.

One may further remark on Blatt's description of the other train passengers during the second passing-by of Belzec:

I saw no unusual reactions, no understanding looks or conversations about it, but Krauze, who did understand, watched me intently.


Is this believable? Would noone react, not even to the stench of burning and decaying corpses? The likely explanation is that the real memories of Blatt, here, the memory of bored passengers on a train, does not fit very well with the "memory" that Blatt has likely convinced himself that he should have: that of fires raging towards the sky at the "death factory".

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Postby Laurentz Dahl » 1 decade 3 years ago (Mon Oct 02, 2006 4:12 am)

Arrival at Sobibor

Blatt describes his and his parents arrival to Sobibor (p.3):

The gate opened, revealing what seemed to be a beautiful village. Before us lay a black paved road lined with flower beds. On our left stood a neat. colorful house surrounded by immaculate lawns, lovely trees, and flowers. The mass of humanity surged forward. We could see signposts, figures beautifully carved in wood: a waiter holding a dish, a barber with a razor. Could such a place be a death factory? Impossible! Perhaps it was really just a work camp, just as the Germans had said.
But I knew better. Even as I passed the green cottage with the idyllic name Swallow's Nest over the door, I knew I was here to die.

(...)

This was it. We were going to be killed in the gas chambers, or electrocuted, as some of us thought. These were our last steps in life. The sun was still high in the sky, birds were singing. It was such a beautiful spring day - April 28 1943. I didn't want to die.


At the time, Blatt was 15 years old.

The above passage shows that rumors of electrocution chambers were spread among the Jews during this time.

Blatt's farewell to his mother is somewhat strange and perhaps hints to the real feelings and expectations he harboured while entering Sobibor (p.3-4):

I wanted to say something [to my mother], aware that we were parting forever.
But for reasons I still cannot understand, out of the blue I said to my mother, "And you didn't let me drink all the milk yesterday. You wanted to save some for today."
Slowly and sadly she turned to look at me. "This is what you think about at such a moment?"
To this day the scene comes back to haunt me, and I have regretted my strange remark, which turned out to be my very last words to her. I would give anything to be able to recreate that moment, to change it, to hug her and tell her I love her, but by 1943 it was as if we were robots, moving like expressionless shadows. I never cried. I was past crying.


Blatt manages to get the attention of an SS man by staring intently at him and gets picked out to be a worker. 40 other Jews are selected for work, while the remaining 200, including Blatt's parents, are sent to the gas chambers (p.4):

The rest (about two hundred) were led away and slowly disappeared from view. They were going to the gas chambers and my father was one of them, but the reality of that didn't touch me then.
While our selected group was being herded away, I heard screams in the distance and occasionally a gunshot. Then suddenly it was quiet, only the heavy rumbling of an engine could be heard.


Blatt is then taken to a barack and shown to a bunk bed, where he notices that someone has apparently slept before. A little while later, he notices the cremation pyres of Lager III for the first time (p.6):

I climbed down from my bunk and went into the yard. There were smoke and flames in the distance, and a strange sweet smell in the air. I didn't let myself understand.


However, as I noted in the post above, Blatt supposedly witnessed (from a train) the cremations at Belzec no less than twice, and he also claims that he knew that Sobibor was a "death factory" before arriving.

Blatt returns to his bunk and does some reminescensing:

I went back inside the barack and lay down on the bunk again, my thoughts wandering. Not for a moment did I think about or let myself feel any emotion over the loss of my mother, father, or brother. I seemed to know instinctively that any such self-indulgence would destroy me. (...) I kept wondering what would have happened had my family gone with the others across the border to the Soviet Union in 1939 as we had planned. (...) Could we have emigrated to another country before the war (...) And where to? America? Would they have taken us, even if we had the money? But things weren't so ominous back then. How would we have possible have known what was to come?


Blatt then continues with an 85 page long account of life up to arrival at Sobibor. I will recount the few remarkable passages in this section below.
Last edited by Laurentz Dahl on Mon Oct 02, 2006 5:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Laurentz Dahl » 1 decade 3 years ago (Mon Oct 02, 2006 4:22 am)

Polish Jews fleeing east and Jewish Bolshevik partisans

Blatt recounts what happened when the German army reached Izbica (the Jewish town (shtetl) close to Lublin were he and his family lived) in September 1939:

We did not know what to do. Some Jews suggested escaping eastward, but other felt that the Germans were also human beings capable of compassion and would not hurt civilians. Some moved on to cross the Bug river and meet the Soviets. We returned to Izbica.
(p.11)

Blatt confirms the Jewish involvement in the partisan groups:

It was a dreary, drizzly day when the Russians approached Izbica. A "Red Militia" was organized by local Communists, whose leader was a former cobbler, a Jew named Abram Wajs.
(p.11)

It was obviously an act of revenge on the band of Jewish Communists who had collaborated with the Soviets.
(p.13)

When the Red Army withdraws to beyond the Bug river in accordance with the German-Soviet treaty, Blatt's mother suggests that they flee eastward, but Blatt's father decides that they stay (p.12).

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Postby Laurentz Dahl » 1 decade 3 years ago (Mon Oct 02, 2006 4:49 am)

Rumors of "gas vans" and German psychopaths

On December 27, 1941 [six months after the beginning of Operation Barbarossa], our roomer Kohn received a letter from his son in Kolo. "For over a month now," he wrote, "trainloads of Jews have been suffocated with gas in special vans in a little-known village, Chelmno."
I was present when my parents and Kohn talked about it. The adults considered it a fabricated story, and it made little impression on them. "It's impossible," they said. "It's a fairy tale (...)"
(p.20)

According to Ruckerl, the extermination activity at Chelmno began in December 1941. For further information on Chelmno and the "gas vans", see

http://www.vho.org/tr/2003/4/Weckert400-412.html
http://www.vho.org/GB/Books/dth/fndwagon.html

Soon after the Blatt family learning of the rumour of Chelmno, Gestapo came to Izbica:

For, much to our horror, a permanent Gestapo command finally came to our town. It consisted of two psychopathic murderers: Kurt Engels(5), a noisy and erratic man whose rank at the time was SS Hauptscharfuhrer, and Ludwig Klemm(6), a tall, quiet noncommisioned officer who spoke excellent Polish and who faithfully followed the dictates of his feared master, Engels.
The Gestapo set up quarters and soon terrorized the whole area. Engels enjoyed shooting Jews in the early morning hours, before breakfast. A certain smile would come over his face, exposing a gold tooth. Soon the local Christian intelligentia were sent off to Auschwitz and Majdanek. The teachers Sliwa, Bazylko, Czubaszek, and other prominent Poles disappeared without a trace, never to return.
(p.20)

Blatt later returns to the two Gestapo officers (p.24-25):

A few days later, around ten in the morning, people were running about shouting that Engels and Klemm were killing every jew in sight. In seconds the streets were silent and empty. Only the two tyrants, the swastika gods, could be seen. Laughing, they forced their way into homes and shot everyone, including babies in cribs, just for sport. (...) Engels killed thirty-five Jews that day. There was wailing and crying as families mourned their dead. I saw them all in the morgue when I went to seek Perec for the last time.


Pretty much the essential German butcherers and sadists of Jewish lore.

In his notes to the former passage, Blatt states (p.228):

5. After the war, Engels was discovered to be the owner of the chic Cafe Engels in Hamburg. The day after I testified at the trial against Engels (December 29 and 30, 1958; Hamburg [(56) 6/57]), he committed suicide in his jail cell.

6. In 1978, Klemm was discovered living in Germany under the name Ludwig Jantz. He committed suicide in his jail cell in Limburg in May 1979.


Both of the "psychopathic murderers" who shot babies for sport, conveniently suicided in their cells, one of them after having lived for years under his own name and running a well-known cafe named after himself...

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Postby Laurentz Dahl » 1 decade 3 years ago (Mon Oct 02, 2006 5:26 am)

Trustworthy rumors

In late March 1942, Blatt learns of Belzec from a friend named Jozek Bresler (p.31-32):

What my parents were trying to hide from me was what he had come to tell me. He poured it out. "Toivi, you know the whole transport of Jews... it will never come back. Our friends Fajgele, Awrumele, their father and mother."
(...)
"You mean they took them so far away that they won't return?" I asked. For me the next city was already a distant place.
"Stupid!" he almost yelled. "They are murdered. It's true! They are gassed! Jacek [his Christian friend] came and told me everything. His Uncle Ryba works for the railway system. Some Jews paid him to follow the transports. He came back and told them the Jews were not taken very far away, maybe only thirty miles, to a small village, Belzec. His uncle worked at the station, where he saw transports of thousands of Jews arriving everyday from different parts of the country, even from Krakow and Lwow. The train would be directed to a sidetrack where a gate would open, he said, and an area he couldn't see into, surrounded by barbed-wire fence, would swallow the whole trainload. Then the train would leave empty. Remember Mr. Kohn's letter from Kolo? About gassing and burning? It's true then...Good-bye."
In the following days, the story was confirmed by others. Jews went to Belzec by the thousands day efter day - men, women, and children. By now the enclosed camp should be overflowing, yet people continued to be brought in, they said, without a stop. In addition, the stench of decomposing bodies filled the whole area.
Some optimists among us still rejected the information as a fantastic lie (...)


Arad wites on page 68 of his Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka:

The full-scale extermination of Jews in Belzec began on March 17, 1942, with the onset of the deportations of the Jews of Lublin.


That is, a week or so before Jozek told Blatt about transports of Jews taken to Belzec and gassed there, rumors he in turn had heard from a friend, who supposedly heard them from his uncle, who supposedly spied at Jewish transports somewhat earlier. This means the alleged events Jozek was talking about most likely transpired before March 17.

On page 26 Arad claims that there were a few experimental gassings in late February or early March 1942, comprising two or three transports with 400-1300 Jews in each of them.

According to the table of deportations to Belzec on pp.383-389 in Arad's book, the first deportations from Lwow to Belzec took place on March 15 1942, while the first transport of Jews from Krakow to Belzec took place on June 1-6 1942.

* * *

On page 33 of his book, Blatt writes about the role of radios in the getto:

In the early days of the occupation, everyone was forced to relinquish their radios. Those who resisted were executed. Information did reach us in various ways, but not without distortions and rumours. It was impossible to tell which information was true.
(...)
Yet we found a way to receive news from the BBC. (...) One evening we heard radio static intermittently, as if someone were trying to tune in stations. We put our ear to the wall. Radio BBC in London was transmitting in Polish. From then on we were able to hear trustworthy news.


Of course the BBC transmissions in Polish, which repeated greuelpropaganda and rumours fed to them via the Polish exile government in London, which in turn got them from the Polish underground. It is known that rumors of exterminations were spread in those broadcasts.

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Postby Laurentz Dahl » 1 decade 3 years ago (Mon Oct 02, 2006 6:13 am)

Well-known secrets

Blatt writes about an Akcja (Aktion) against the Jews in the Izbica getto in June 1942 (p.34-35):

the SS marched into the Judenrat building with an ultimatum: "All those under fifteen and over fifty-five must be delivered to the market place or they will be shot."
The German and Austrian Jews living in Izbica at the time were undone by their typical German discipline and respect for law and superiors. The Polish Jews had a more realistic appraisal of their situation, and tried to escape their tragic destiny. Most Polish Jews, knowing that "resettlement" meant death, hid somewhere and took their chances. The foreign Jews, on the other hand, didn't believe they were going to an extermination camp, even though they had been warned.


Thus, the code language supposedly used by the Nazi perpetrators to fool their victims and to keep the extermination program secret, proved to be not very effective.

Blatt is certainly "informed" about German strategems (p.37):

From now on, we were assured, only unproductive Jews were to be resettled, the rest would live in peace. By making exceptions in the extermination process, the Germans sowed confusion and uncertainty, fostering hope and trapping even those who were ready to resist.


Blatt, page 36:
Soon [June or July 1942] rumours reached us of a newly built death factory, one they called Sobibor.


The Nazis certainly couldn't keep the "death camps" secret for very long. According to Arad (p.36), Sobibor was ready for operation "Toward the end of April 1942".

Interestingly, Arad lists no June 1942 deportation from Izbica to Belzec in Appendix A of his book.

The German Devil Engels makes another appearance on page 40:

In September 1942, all Jews from the small neighboring ghettos of Krasnystaw and Zamosc were to be brought to Izbica. (...) The resettlement was a bloody one. The people had been formed into columns and forced to walk the entire twenty-one kilometers. Engels guarded them with a machine gun manned from the roof of a truck. It was a caravan of horrors. He shot to kill those who lagged behind. Riding alongside in horse-drawn wagons were Ukrainian guards, who executed Jews at will and with pleasure. Finally, the remnants of the convoy entered Izbica.


On the next page, Blatt lashes out at the Poles and what he sees as their role in the deportations (p.41):

It's true that no one was guarding us at this point. But from the very beginning we had been surrounded by an invisible wall of anti-Semitic Polish citizens, which, in my opinion, is one of the main reasons why so very few Jews survived. Certainly, there were Poles who risked their own lives and those of their families to help the Jews, but from what I have seen, a great number of Poles actively helped the Nazis persecute the Jews.


On page 63, writing about days spent in a prison with other Jews who had tried to escape from German controlled territory, Blatt sheds some light on a mental factor that may have contributed to the large scale of the typhus epidemics:

Despite our efforts at cleanliness, it was not long before an epidemic of typhus broke out in our cell. (...) The typhus outbreak was confirmed by a prison doctor. We were afraid to report it, for we knew the Nazis only too well. It was obvious what kind of medicine they would prescribe for us. Therefore, the sick would "stand" on their feet at daily roll call. Crammed together, we could prop eachother up, and, being tightly packed, we drew no attention from the guard.

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Postby Laurentz Dahl » 1 decade 3 years ago (Mon Oct 02, 2006 6:30 am)

More on the Diabolic Engels

Just before seeing Belzec for the second time, Blatt is given a piece of chocolate by an SS officer (p.77):

As I ate the chocolate I observed the neatly dressed and well-mannered SS officer. I shuddered. He might be a murderer. How would he act if he knew who I really was? He seemed human and kind, but I knew too much to view him that way. When Engels's son and wife came to Izbica to visit him, didn't I see him hugging and kissing the little boy? Yet the same day, the same morning, he had murdered six people, including a boy not much older than his own seven-year old!


Engels even show his dastardly ways towards Blatt's own father (p.80-81):

A month later, Engels removed my father from jail. In imitation of Jesus Christ, my father was forced to crown his head with barbed wire and hang a sign on his chest, saying, "I am King of the Jews." He was forced to walk the streets with the message that Jews could return. The town was now officially a Judenstadt, a place where the Jews would be allowed to live.


Blatt and his parents as well as 240 other Jews remaining in the Izbica ghetto are taken in trucks to Sobibor (p.90-91).

We were passing the turnoff to the labor camp at Osowa... then we passed the Trawniki turnoff. I heard a gasp of sorrow... there were no more work camps on the way. So it was to be Sobibor. My heart was beating relentlessly. I could hear desperate cries, but most were quiet, paralyzed by their visions of suffering and death.
(...)
We were ordered out of the trucks. Resistance was impossible now. We were surrounded on three sides by an army of SS and black-uniformed Ukrainians. In front of us, barbed wire and a big gate. Above the gate were large black letters: SS SONDERKOMMANDO.

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Postby Malle » 1 decade 3 years ago (Mon Oct 02, 2006 1:09 pm)

Carto's Cutlass Supreme wrote:Lubomyr Prytulak in the now forced-out UKAR.org pointed out all the problems with Sereny's interview. How apparently Sereny didn't tape the interview, so we just have to rely on her word.

I think he discussed Blatt too, but that site is gone.


CCS, please be my guest.

Link to Sereny index: http://web.archive.org/web/200407301550 ... ereny.html

Link directly to Stangl: http://web.archive.org/web/200407301558 ... eny02.html
I must be a mushroom - because everyone keeps me in the dark and feeds me with lots of bullshit.

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Postby Laurentz Dahl » 1 decade 3 years ago (Mon Oct 02, 2006 9:32 pm)

Blatt's First Day in Sobibor

Blatt finds himself behind barbed wire, but the "extermination camp" is not particularly well hidden from the local civilian population (p.93):

Across the barbed wire I could see the Sobibor village train station. (...) A dog barked. Smoke curled from the chimneys of a few cottages nestled among the trees. The farmers were going about their business. Behind the cottages, like a dark wall, stood the Sobibor forest.


Compare this with Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka... p.23:

The location of the camps had to be desolate places, as far as possible from inhabitated areas, to maintain secrecy and to keep knowledge of what was transpiring within them hidden from the local population.


Blatt and the other newcomers are soon asked about news from the outside world by "the old-timers", and he also meets his friend Jozek (the kid who told him about the "extermination camps") who of course was saved from the gas chambers (p.94):

When he got to Sobibor he was saved because the Nazis needed a dentist and his father volunteered. Jozek was allowed to work as his father's dental assistant, but his mother went to her death.


He then learns that 69 Dutch Work Jews had been killed earlier and that he and the others were picked to fill their space. One Dutch Jew, an artist named Max van Dam, together with two female assistants were saved to paint portraits of the Nazis (where did those painting end up by the way?) (p.95)

Jozek then goes on to describe the layout of the camp for Blatt (p.95):

"The whole camp is divided into four sections: the garrison where the Nazis reside, and the three others called Lagers. Lager I, where we are right now, contains the prisoner's sleeping barracks, the kitchen, and some workshops. Lager II, a couple of hundred feet further on, is where the prisoners sort the clothing of the dead. And Lager III, on the north side, is where the gas chambers are and where they burn the bodies"


Lager I has a small orchestra. Blatt sees a couple dancing tango to the music and is informed by Jozek that they are Dutch ballet stars (p.96).

Once more it is claimed that the Work Jews acted like "robots" (p.96):

"[Jozek:] You see that fire over there? This very minute your whole family is turning to ashes, just like my family half a year ago. And I didn't cry, and now you're not crying. You have no more tears, you want to say? No, it's because we've become robots; our survival instincts have taken over. If we thought like normal people we would all go mad."
(...)
I lay sleepless on my bunk, afraid to think or let myself feel anything about my family and their apparent deaths.

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Postby Laurentz Dahl » 1 decade 3 years ago (Mon Oct 02, 2006 10:21 pm)

Camouflage Fences and Himmlerian Perversities

On his second day in Sobibor, Blatt and the other prisoners have to rise up at 4 o'clock and assembled for roll call. Blatt sees that the "crematorium fire was still burning, the flames reaching into the sky." (p.96). His first work task is to "weave pine branches into the barbed wire fence so no one could see into the compound." (p.97)

Watch http://zamphir.litek.ws/videos/25_flameable_fence.wmv for a comment on the alleged "tree branch fences" at the Reinhardt camps.

Jozek later tells Blatt about a visit by Himmler to the camp (p.98 ):

He told me that in March [1943], just before I arrived, Himmler visited the camp. In his honor, the camp commandant performed a sample execution of seventy beautiful naked Jewish girls, specially selected and brought from the nearby town of Wlodawa.


According to Arad (p.165-166) the Himmler visit to Sobibor, Treblinka and the Aktion Reinhardt headquarters in Lublin took place in "late February or early March 1943". One page 166 of his book, Arad quotes the testimony of a Jewish Sobibor "survivor", Ada Lichtman, according to whom the victims were a "a group of young people" of nondescript sex:

Himmler and his group attended the gassing and cremation of the youngsters. After this killing operation, all of them went to the canteen, where tables with food and flowers had been prepared for these murderers.


The source for Lichtman's testimony is YVA (Yad Vashem Archives) L-11/5, p.47-48.

One may wonder how Lichtman knew all of this, since none of the ordinary prisoners were let into Lager III (the Jews who worked there were lodged in a separate barrack within the Lager). Did she work in the canteen?

Arad then states that "according to other testimonies, there were no ordinary transports on the day's of Himmler's visit" and that a "special group of several hundred young Jewish girls was brought to Sobibor from one of the labor camps in the Lublin district, and their gassing was carried out as a show for Himmler." As source, Arad gives the testimonies of Blatt (YVA 0-3/713) and Dov Freiberg (YVA, A-361) as well as the book Dokumenty y Materialy published in Poland in 1946, a book I suppose is a compilation of "reports" and "documents" presented at the Soviet-Polish show trials against alleged perpetrators of "Hitlerite crimes". Arad further supports his claims with the testimonies of SS Oberscharfuhrer Hubert Gomerski and SS Oberscharfuhrer Karl Frenzel at the Sobibor-Bolender trial.

According to Blatt "a few prisoners were playing classical music (violin and bass) as if it were the most natural thing to do" all the while "huge tongues of fire shot up to the heavens." (p.98-99) "Robots", or people not seeing any flames, because there were none to see?

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Postby Laurentz Dahl » 1 decade 3 years ago (Mon Oct 02, 2006 11:06 pm)

Arrival of transports

Blatt is awakened in the middle of the night by a sharp whistle. Blatt and other prisoners are assigned the tasks of "friseurs" and "porters" (p.99).

New arrivals were getting of the train. A narrow-gauge dumpcart passed by. Into it would be thrown, I was told, in addition to the large pieces of baggage, the sick, the old, the crippled, and all those unable to walk on their own. The rest would follow the SS men to a long barrack.
(p.99)

The dumpcart must have been pretty crowded. For more on this subject, see http://www.forum.codoh.com/viewtopic.php?t=3596

The arrivals are told to leave their purses and hand baggage in the barrack.

Once in a while I would see bewilderment and suspicion on their faces. They had left their heavy baggage on the platform without worry, because all the luggage had tags, but here they were told to throw their very personal belongings into a huge heap. When someone refused to leave a purse or handbag, the SS man would whip the victim until he or she complied.


The number of arrivals are given as about five hundred on the same page.

On an enclosed courtyard, an SS man holds a speech to arrivals (p.100-101):

The speaker apologized to the listeners for the inconvenience. For sanitary reasons they must undress, put their clothing neatly away, and take a shower before relaxing in the comfortable living quarters that were awaiting them. He recommended that they take the prepared postcards and write a few words to their loved ones in Holland to assure them of their safe arrival in Poland [the arrivals were Dutch Jews] and good health.
The soothing spech of the well-mannered SS man was effective. There was applause. I heard a commotion as the people rushed toward the free postcards, having no idea that those very postcards were a lure meant to reinforce the facade of "resettlement" for the next transport. If only the fence dividing us had been transparent, they would have seen the still-warm mountain of clothing from their predecessors waiting to be sorted and packed.


Of course, no one could see through the highly effective camouflage fences. As noted above, Blatt had heard rumors of "fake postcards" long before arriving at Sobibor.

Suddenly I heard the sound of internal combustion engines. Immediately afterward, a terribly high-pitched, yet smothered, collective cry - at first strong, surpassing the roar of the motors, then, after a few minutes, gradually weakening. (...) I'm sure that the people in the undressing yard heard the scream, but they could not have known what it meant. The noise, muffled by the sound of the engines and the thick walls of the gas chambers, could be taken for a distant thunder, an approaching storm.


According to the established version, the gas chambers in Sobibor was fed exhaust gas from a single engine, but here Blatt uses the plural form three times in a row. And, by the way, how could Blatt know that the gas chamber walls were thick, when he could not see into Lager III and in fact, never set foot in it?

Blatt is then led to work in the hair-cutting barrack, "less than twenty feet from the gas chambers" (p.101). After work finished, on his way back to Lager I, Blatt hears "rhythmic thuds coming from the direction of the gas chambers" (p.102):

Later I learned what it was. Prisoners in the crematoria section were throwing the bodies onto the narrow-gauge dumpcarts that carried the corpses to the cremation site.


When exactly did Blatt learn of this? Since he states that prisoners from other parts of the camp could not look into Lager III, that he never had any contact with Lager III prisoners and that the security around Lager III was extremely tight in order to keep out curious prisoners (p.231), he either heard it from other prisoners who claimed to have received information from Lager III workers, or he learned of it after the war.
Last edited by Laurentz Dahl on Tue Oct 03, 2006 3:11 am, edited 1 time in total.


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