Category Archive: Nazis

Auschwitz Memorial Sees Record Number of Visitors in 2016

World Youth Day was a large boost to attendance. But how about Pokémon Go?

The memorial and museum and Auschwitz-Birkenau announced on Monday that a record 2,053,000 people visited the former Nazi concentration camp in 2016. Tops among attendees are from Poland, the UK, the U.S., and Italy; 97,000 visitors came from Israel, a 59 percent increase from the year prior. Also boosting yearly attendance were the 155,000 people who visited for World Youth Day, including Pope Francis. Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński, the museum’s director, said eloquently, “In today’s world—torn by conflicts, increased feeling of insecurity and strengthening of populist tones in public discourse—it is necessary to re-listen to the darkest warnings from the past.”

A few weeks before the Pope visited Poland, there was hubbub about the fact that kids had begun playing Pokémon Go—a newly-released, augmented reality GPS-enabled videogame in which players try to catch, say, a Jigglypuff—at Auschwitz. The museum’s spokesman called it “disrespectful.” Tablet senior writer made the case otherwise, arguing that the forced emotion, the requisite sadness, that is struck upon young visitors is oppressive. “When urged to bow before death, life finds a way.”

Let these kids play their game, then, not even in Auschwitz, but especially there. Let them feel again that mad methectic magic Huizinga spoke about. They can’t make sense of Auschwitz, anyway; they can’t fathom what led to such brutality, can’t make sense of such hate. But they can catch a Jigglypuff and feel a burst of life whistling through the airless chambers of the factory of death. And that’s no small thing, no minor testament to the same resilience the Nazis eagerly and futilely tried to extinguish. Where better than Auschwitz to admit we’ll never have real knowledge, and where better to declare we’ll always have great games?


The Auschwitz museum has a Twitter account, and this ex-journalist runs it

Whether he’s engaging the misguided (he prefers not to) or tweeting historical facts, Pawel Sawicki sees his job as shielding the memory of the victims

sawicki-1-965x543OSWIECIM, Poland (JTA) — Long before he moved here to become the spokesman for the Auschwitz museum and lead its social media effort, Pawel Sawicki’s life was intricately connected to this sleepy town near Krakow.

A Warsaw-area radio journalist, Sawicki used to visit Oswiecim as a boy on holidays to stay with his grandparents and play with his cousins, who had moved to the town shortly after World War II.

When he was 10, Sawicki learned that Auschwitz was an epicenter of the Nazi genocide against the Jews — he gleaned the details from a book about the camp that he found in his grandparents’ home.

“Most people visiting Oswiecim, especially from outside of Poland, are shocked to discover there’s a town next to the former German Nazi camp, the memorial which they come to visit. For me it was somehow the other way around,” Sawicki said.

That realization, he said, sparked an interest that led him here a decade ago as a reporter — and it consumes him to this day.

This initial connection to the history of Auschwitz was the beginning of a “constant presence in my life that kept sending me to look for more information,” said Sawicki, 36, who began working at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in 2007. Sawicki has encyclopedic knowledge about Auschwitz, which he has shared in countless articles, guided tours, and several radio and video documentary productions.

But the advent of social media has highlighted another role fulfilled by his office: as “a shield protecting the memory of victims” against rampant abuse online, he said.

A case in point was Sawicki’s intervention last month on Twitter when he called out Kurt Schlichter, a columnist for the conservative news site Townhall, for writing that Jewish supporters of Barack Obama and John Kerry “would have made a fine helper at Auschwitz.”

After some deliberation, Sawicki decided to tweet Schlichter’s message on the Auschwitz memorial account, adding: “The tragedy of prisoners of Auschwitz and their complicated moral dilemmas which today we can hardly comprehend should not be instrumentalized.”

With 40,000 likes and retweets, it became the memorial’s most retweeted message ever, topping the one about Pope Francis’ visit in July and exposing Schlichter to withering criticism.

This reach and intense reaction demonstrate the reasons for Sawicki’s careful consideration on whether to intervene, he said.

“In some cases, such actions risk offering a platform to abuse, thereby amplifying it,” he said. “But exposing and correcting such behavior can have a positive effect that sometimes justifies this risk. But it’s always a fine balance.”

The overwhelming rejection by Twitter users shows that calling Schlichter on his words was the right move, said Sawicki, whose office once was the pharmacy of the SS troops serving in Auschwitz.

But he does not engage Holocaust mockers and deniers as a matter of policy.

Sawicki has also demanded corrections from journalists who apply the word “Polish” to death and concentration camps built by Nazi Germans on Polish soil; doing so is a felony in Poland. And the museum will seek apologies or corrections from those who note that the camps are in Poland without adding that they were built under Nazi occupation.

But much of the online activity of the museum is to highlight positive examples of online engagement with Auschwitz, in Polish, German, English and other languages. There are regular “this day in history” tweets, links to articles and comments from recent visitors (“Where was man?” asks one), and news articles referring to Auschwitz and Holocaust commemoration. Earlier this week there were photos of the camp under a blanket of snow with the message: “New year brought snow which changes the landscape of the historical site.”

On the ground, the museum’s task is to safeguard the buildings and environs and to gather, study and publish evidence on German atrocities. But online, “our main goal is to provide education on the scale of the crime and what made it possible,” Sawicki said.

The Nazis murdered more than 1.1 million Jews at Auschwitz as well as 70,000 non-Jewish Poles, 25,000 Roma, and some 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war.

“Our social media policy is an extension of our guidelines as an institution, but it is developing week by week because we’ve never had such direct interaction with so many people,” Sawicki said. It’s both a chance to “educate people from all corners of the world, many of whom will never be able to visit the memorial.”

But abuse online is also a growing problem.

Amid a renewed wave of interest in the Holocaust in recent years in films, books and other media, as well as in visits to the museum — it registered a record of more than 2 million entries last year — the “instrumentalization,” trivialization and denial of the Holocaust has been growing as well, Sawicki said.

“It’s a daily, fast-changing challenge,” he said.

At the museum, Sawicki navigates the institution’s 470 acres with certainty, demonstrating an intimate knowledge of almost all aspects of life — and death — here. Unlike some visiting guides who resort to pathos or sanctimony, Sawicki, wearing a colorful scarf that his mother-in-law made for him, shares in an informal but precise manner illustrative facts and anecdotes that he has spent a decade collecting.

At the Death Wall, an execution site that is located in the yard adjacent to Block 11 in Auschwitz I, Sawicki dryly explains to a group of journalists that around the wall there was sand mixed with sawdust designed to drain blood.

“Some testimonies mentioned that an adult male bleeds about two liters [67 ounces] when shot, so on days with dozens of executions this place was quite literally soaked in blood,” he said.

Sawicki once interviewed a survivor who recalled laughing at the sight of a fellow prisoner wrestling free from under cadavers that had collapsed on him from a cart. SS guards also laughed. Such testimony illustrated to Sawicki the complexities of surviving at Auschwitz, “but also the amazing human personal strength” doing so required, he said.

While most of the hundreds of thousands of people who visit Oswiecim annually likely associate it with death and horror rather than a town with 900 years of history, for Sawicki it is also the place where he started a family after moving in 2007 with his wife, Agnieszka, whom he married while living here. His son, Wojtech, attends kindergarten near here.

For Sawicki, the town’s dark history is no impediment to loving it.

“It has always been a second home to me, and now it is even more so,” said Sawicki, who grew up in the quiet Warsaw suburb of Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki. “We have to accept these aspects of history in Poland and strive to make a better future.”

Agnieszka, however, has had a tougher time acclimating “because she’s a real city person, a Warsaw girl who needed some time to get used to the different pace,” Sawicki said.

The couple have told their son neither about the Holocaust nor about his father’s workplace except to say that it’s a museum.

“We don’t want to introduce it before he’s ready to take it in,” Sawicki said. “So we’re kind of waiting for him to ask the questions.”


Croatian president poses with pro-Nazi regime symbol

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic photographed with coat-of-arms of Ustasha, which persecuted and killed vast numbers of Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascists

15110261_10209507936608588_4074372119233309036_o-e1480201423583-635x357ZAGREB — Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic sparked online debate Saturday as it emerged she posed for a photo during her recent Canada trip with a flag carrying a symbol of her country’s wartime pro-Nazi regime.

Her office shrugged off the incident, insisting there was “nothing questionable” about it.

The photo, posted on Facebook by a Croatian man living in Canada, shows Grabar-Kitarovic posing with him and others in front of a flag bearing the coat of arms used by Croatia’s World War II-era Ustasha regime, which persecuted and killed hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascists.

The checkerboard-patterned shield in the middle of Croatia’s current national flag has 25 red and white squares, starting with a red one in the top-left corner.

A different version with a white square in that corner has been used at other points in Croatia’s history — notably by the Ustasha. It was replaced by the current shield after World War II when Croatia was part of the former Yugoslavia.

Both versions were briefly in use in 1990 ahead of Croatia’s declaration of independence, but under a December 1990 law the national flag bears the red-first version of the shield.

The presidency batted off the row over the photo of Grabar-Kitarovic, telling N1 television, “We see nothing questionable in it.” It noted that such a flag was displayed in front of the Croatian parliament in 1990.

The president’s view on the wartime regime is “clear and she voiced it on several occasions,” it added. Grabar-Kitarovic has condemned the Ustasha in the past.

The row sparked mixed responses online.

“This issue involving our president is more than shameful,” Visnja Skreblin, a woman from Zagreb, commented on online portal Index.

But reader Mario Babic defended the president, saying it was “Croatia’s historic shield, created far before the darkest chapter of Croatia’s history.”

Grabar-Kitarovic took over the presidency — a role with limited powers — in 2015 as the candidate of the ruling conservative HDZ party.

The previous HDZ-led government, which fell in June, was accused by critics of turning a blind eye to a far-right surge in the country, including nostalgia for the pro-Nazi past.


Holocaust hero or villain who collaborated with Nazis?

Paul Bogdanor digs deep into the contentious legacy of Rudolf Kasztner, and his attempts to save Jews from the Holocaust.

showimage-1Paul Bogdanor has penned a well-researched book on the contentious Kasztner affair – a controversy that commenced in wartime Hungary and has continued until the present day.

In the summer of 1944, a minor Jewish figure, Rudolf Kasztner, negotiated with Adolf Eichmann in the hope of saving hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews as the Third Reich was rapidly shrinking.

While he was doing so, 437,402 Jews from rural provinces were deported to Auschwitz over an eight-week period.

The affair was characterized as the “goods for blood” proposition, an exchange of trucks for Jews, the “freedom” train to Switzerland carrying 1,684 selected Jews, and Kasztner’s refusal to warn Hungarian Jewry of their impending doom.

The incident is one mired in the megaphone war between the Zionist Right and the Zionist Left. Despite a Supreme Court ruling which overturned most of the accusations of collaboration during the Kasztner trial, a 1955 election poster for Menachem Begin’s party read: “Kasztner votes for Mapai, you vote for Herut.”

Moreover, his prime accuser, Malkiel Gruenwald, had a long criminal career back in Hungary and was reputedly a police informer in Israel.

In 1957, Kasztner was murdered by a far-right group, Malchut Yisrael, becoming in death either a martyr who did not deserve his fate, or a villain who got his just deserts.

In Kasztner’s Crime, Bogdanor has assiduously attempted to dispel the fog of these distractions and to analyze Kasztner’s actions in 1944. He develops the arguments put forward by Ben Hecht and Uri Avnery decades ago, presenting not only evidence, but also presumption and interpretation. It is a convincing case and he demands a guilty verdict.

The Nazis wanted to avoid – at all cost – another Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, but were ideologically committed to the extermination of all Jews. Bogdanor argues that the tortuous negotiations with the Jews were designed to dangle the hope of rescue and to drag them out for an eternity while the deportations continued apace. It served the Nazi desire for a total absence of resistance.

When Eichmann arrived in Hungary in the spring of 1944, he was accompanied by 150 to 200 staff who were expected to deport 750,000 people. The Hungarian Interior Ministry offered 20,000 gendarmes to support Eichmann in the belief that the Jews were merely being sent to “work” camps.

In this lethal card game, the Nazis held the aces while the Jews looked for any scintilla of salvation. Kasztner promised to pay the Nazis $200,000 per month in the hope of postponing the deportations and prolonging the negotiations as the end of the war approached. Based on examples from Slovakia, the possibility of bribery from funds raised by free Jewry was considered. Everything came to naught, and such proposals were buried in the cemetery of wishful thinking – a cemetery guarded by Eichmann’s SS.

Kasztner appears to have become entrapped in a delusion of self-importance and a belief that eventually his many compromises would pay off. He even wrote that the deported Jews were alive in ‘Waldsee’ – a Nazi euphemism for the reality of Auschwitz.

Kasztner had met Oscar Schindler in November 1943, and was well aware of the extermination of European Jewry in the camps to the East. Yet he did not warn the Jews of Cluj, his home town, and other nearby locations, to escape across the nearby Romanian border. Did he wish to avert widespread panic – which would serve German aims? Did he refuse to call for an armed revolt because so few arms had been secured from Tito’s partisans? Did he believe that the few had to be sacrificed so that the many should live? The mother of Hannah Szenes did not entertain such ideas during the trial, and accused Kasztner of betraying her daughter and sending her to her death. Yet the Hungarian Service of the BBC was broadcasting dire warnings of what was happening.

Did this fall on deaf ears? Did no one spread such information in Hungary? Bogdanor demonstrates that Kasztner’s story after 1945 constantly changed, peppered by omissions and contradictions.

The author argues that Kasztner testified on behalf of Nazis whom he had worked with, in order to construct a common protective alibi during a time when survivors were looking for retribution. Utilizing new evidence, Bogdanor is critical of eminent historians such as Yehuda Bauer for their interpretation of the Kasztner affair.

David Ben-Gurion commented in 1955 that the final verdict in this saga should be left to future generations. Bogdanor believes that time has now arrived, and he has written a highly detailed work. Yet at the back of the reader’s mind, there will still lurk the question of what he or she would have done in Kasztner’s position. A course of action which resides in the grayness of immoral choice – the difference between bad and worse. Bogdanor’s book provides uncomfortable food for thought in this personal arena as well.


Himmler diaries reveal chilling details of Nazi wartime life

Journals illustrate how the SS chief kept tabs on even the banal minutiae of his daily routine, even as he oversaw the systematic slaughter of European Jewry

himmler-desk-afp-635x357BERLIN, Germany — Wartime diaries kept by top Nazi henchman Heinrich Himmler, serialized this week in Germany’s daily Bild, offer chilling insights into the life of one of the principal architects of the Holocaust.

Himmler, the head of the Nazi paramilitary SS, kept tabs on even the banal minutiae of his daily comings and goings, even as he oversaw the systematic slaughter of six million European Jews.

The journals, unearthed in Russia in 2013 and currently being studied at the German Historical Institute in Moscow, reveal a confidant of Adolf Hitler as a micromanager marked by deep contradictions.

They also “help to better make sense of key events and understand who took part in decision making for the regime,” researcher Matthias Uhl of the German Historical Institute told AFP.

“Now we can say exactly whom Himmler met each day, where he was, and who his closest advisers were.”

The documents, found in the archives of the Russia defense ministry, cover the years 1938, 1943 and 1944. The German institute plans to published an annotated version by 2018.

The journals for 1941 and 1942 were already discovered in 1991 in Russia, which holds 2.5 million documents from the Wehrmacht, the Nazi-era German military.

The image that emerges is of a caring family man who nevertheless kept mistresses and had secret children as part of one illicit love affair.

Himmler is shown to be a passionate stargazer and avid card player even as he ordered massacres and oversaw the death camps.

“The man who planned the Holocaust was obsessive about organizing his personal life,” Bild said.

“Between [poison] gas, execution orders and thousands of rendezvous, he took care of his family, his mistress and his hobbies.”

On January 3, 1943, for example, Himmler received one of many “therapeutic massages” from his doctor, took part in meetings, called his wife and daughter and then ordered, after midnight, the killing of several Polish families.

According to Bild, Himmler was an ambitious careerist who met with more than 1,600 people between 1943 and his suicide in British custody in May 1945.

“The number of contacts, as well as attempts by Himmler to gain influence through the SS on important institutions of the party, state and army, are impressive,” Uhl said.

“He tried, during the course of the war, to consolidate his power.”

Himmler’s secretaries, one of whom, Hedwig Potthast, bore him two children, noted down regular inspection tours to the concentration camps including Sachsenhausen, with Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, on March 10, 1938, and the Sobibor extermination camp on February 12, 1943.

“Himmler wanted to have a demonstration of the ‘effectiveness’ of killing by gas,” Bild said.


The Story My Bubbe Told Us

BubbeI can’t remember the exact moment when I realized there was a lot more to my Bubbe’s story than a grandmother who baked amazing chocolate chip cookies and spent her winters in Florida. Her past wasn’t really discussed openly, and it wasn’t until after my bat mitzvah that I started to really understand what she had been through. A young girl at the time Hitler rose to power, Esther Sal spent her teen years in a ghetto before escaping and hiding with her family in the forest, among other places. They narrowly missed death numerous times.

Now, as a mother to an 8-year-old, I struggle with how to share my Bubbe’s story before it’s too late. With my grandfather — a concentration camp survivor — having passed a few years ago, my son deserved to hear my Bubbe’s story straight from her. But could he handle it? While he’s learned a little bit about the Holocaust in school, he has been shielded from many of the more intense details. I wasn’t sure how he would react to hearing about some of them, especially from his great-grandmother.

We traveled down to Florida a few months ago so I could record her story for posterity. We talked about what Bubbe might share, and he said he wanted to be there to listen. And so, together, two days after we arrived in Boynton Beach, we gathered in the lanai and listened to her story.

Esther was born in Złoty Potok, Poland in 1929. The second oldest of five children, she lived with her family in a nice neighborhood, and due to her father’s successful store, they were comfortably middle-class. Like all of their Jewish neighbors, they were religious. There was nothing else but being Jewish, so there was no identifying by sect, really. And in the end, being Jewish was all that mattered.

“My life before the war was wonderful. I went to public school, and to a good Hebrew school. I could read and write in Hebrew. It was a private school, which was expensive and something not everyone could afford. When the war started I was 12 years old. They announced that no Jewish children could go to school. It was upsetting. Why could everyone else go to school but not us?”

When the Germans took over my Bubbe’s village, they also took away her father’s store and everything that was in it. The Germans created a group of Jews called the Judenrat, and forced them to go and collect valuables from their neighbors. They took everything from furs to jewelry, even wedding rings.

“We still lived in our house though. We had a very nice house that my father built two years before the war. It was brick, a beautiful home. I shared a bedroom with my sister upstairs. Then, it started getting really bad, and we were scared. The Germans chased us out of our home to the city of Buchach. All the Jews had to leave. They let us take a suitcase and that was it. You couldn’t take your furniture. When they chased us out of our house, our grandfather came with us. He was 72 years old.

“They used to surprise us during the night with trucks — the SS. You didn’t know they were coming. My father was always looking for hiding spaces for us. So on the third floor, where the attic was, he divided a wall and the door was hidden so you couldn’t tell. When we heard the shooting outside, we went up and hid. We were 13 people between my family, some friends, and the couple that took us in. The Germans would go from house to house. Whoever they found, they took them out and threw them in trucks and took them to a forest. They made the Jews dig their own graves and then they shot them. Hundreds and hundreds of people were killed there.”

My Bubbe shares this as if talking about the plot of a book, but there is a weariness to her as well. Pulling up these memories can’t be easy. I look to my son, who has been quiet this whole time. I wonder if it’s too much for him, but he seems okay, absorbing it all.

“Once, the Germans came to the attic. They were looking for us, yelling “Jude! Jude!” We were very scared, but they finally left. While we hid in the attic, we heard all the shots that came from the forest, Feder Hill, all day and all night. They killed a lot of Jews that time. After two days of shooting, things quieted down. We started coming out of our hiding place. Downstairs there were some other people that lived there. The SS took the parents; the grandmother and a little boy, only 2 years old, were shot. The little boy wore a white coat and the blood ran all over the coat and the boy. I will never forget that. And when we came out, on the street, there were a lot of dead people, their brains splashed all over. I was only 12 years old.”

Twelve. Four years older than my son. I can’t imagine. I don’t want to imagine. But the picture she’s painting is so vivid and so painful. My Bubbe explains how her family was then forced into a ghetto, surrounded by wire. They weren’t allowed to leave and the conditions were horrible. Once again, her father went into the attic of the house they were in and made a hiding space. The Germans continued to “surprise” them, and they managed to survive every shooting that happened. Her father realized that staying in the ghetto didn’t necessarily mean survival. He felt that if they “were going to die anyway” they should at least try to escape. In the middle of the night he packed up the whole family and they walked 18 miles back to their village of Złoty Potok where they were able to stay in the barn of a woman they knew. It was then that most of the family fell ill with typhoid fever.

“My brother, he was two years older than me, didn’t get sick. So my father put him in another place, with a non-Jewish family, very good people. They took my brother in and kept him, not long. Maybe a week or two. And my grandfather, he was in a barn somewhere else. Somebody saw, and squealed on my brother, telling the Germans and they came in and took him out. My brother was 17 years old. They also found my grandfather. They took them to the Jewish cemetery, made them undress, and then they shot them both. My father knew about this, but didn’t tell us. He told us they took them to a camp.”

She explains that they all eventually survived the typhoid. Her father realized that they couldn’t stay in the woman’s barn for too much longer. My Bubbe emphasizes how brave this woman was, because if the Germans had caught them there, she would have been killed as well. A glimpse of all the kind hearted people within all of this madness.

“When we finally felt better we went into the forest, and again, my father protected us. He built a bunker very deep in the forest. We cooked outside. We stayed there for a while until it was too dangerous. So we went elsewhere in the forest and started again. My father built another bunker, under the ground. Then another one, and a third one underneath that one.

“I remember, there was a woman there with her husband and she was pregnant. And that wasn’t a good thing. She had the baby and… he didn’t survive. The baby was screaming, and there were other people in the bunker and they didn’t want that. Don’t ask, it was a whole different kind of thing.”

At this, my son’s eyes grow wide with understanding but he remains silent, wanting my Bubbe to go on. He has fallen into her story and, like me, needs to hear it through until the end.

“Well, the soldiers came and we ran into the bunker. My father made a cover from a tree stump, with moss around it. You couldn’t tell it was a cover and that there was anything underneath. Somehow, they found the bunker. They opened the cover and started shooting. They were afraid to go in. They threw in a hand grenade. But we went into the third one, down below and we were safe.”

I start to imagine what the two years in the woods must have been like for her. She explains how they foraged for food like mushrooms in the summer, and in the winter they got whatever food they could from a Polish doctor who was a friend of theirs. She describes the one dress she wore the entire time in the forest. More than 60 years later she can still describe it with such clarity: dark orange, almost red, with pinstripes. I wonder what happened to that dress.

“There were always surprises. Once, we didn’t have time to hide in the bunker. We ran and ran and ran, down to the stream where we washed up. We could see the German’s boots and rifles. Until today, I still have nightmares that I’m running and running, but they didn’t get me. My heart, racing. We had so many close calls, but they never got us.

“Winter was really bad. We were starving and had no food. My mother decided that we had to get out of the forest. She had a brother and a sister, and they were staying with a Baptist couple, who had kept 12 Jews underneath their barn in a bunker. My mother said, ‘We’re going to die either way, so we might as well try. Maybe they’ll take us in.’”

She tells me that they did take them in, despite the fact that there were already too many people hiding in their bunker. They were allowed to stay there for four weeks.

“We had to stay in the dark bunker with no windows. You couldn’t see anything and I did not like that. Until today, I still hate the dark.

“We walked through the night back to our hometown Złoty Potok and we went into a neighbor’s barn. We were frozen and hungry. She had two cows in there, we sat around them and it was nice and warm. There was food left for the cows, so we ate it. Then we figured our neighbor would come in during the morning, see us, and then run to the police and that would be the end.

“When she did come in, she knew us. She used to come to our house on Shabbat. She felt sorry for us. She started crying. She kept us there. She used to bring food for the cows and for us. She had a very sick husband — he was very mean. If he had known we were there, forget it, we would have been gone. But he was paralyzed, so he had no idea we were in the barn. Everyone thought she was a crazy woman. Well, she wasn’t so crazy.

“My father made a room from the straw and manure in the barn, so if anyone came in to look for us, we would hide. And we stayed there for three, maybe 4 more months until we were liberated by the Russians.”

It’s been almost an hour. My son — who is the definition of “ shpilkes in the tukhis ” — has sat, engrossed this entire time. I know we’ll have many follow up conversations about much of what he has heard, but I am so grateful for this moment. For him to hear my Bubbe’s story from her lips. Perhaps he will one day share this story, when all we have left are recordings and written words. He’ll be able to say, my great-grandmother was a part of this awful and historic event. This is her story.

Avital Norman Nathman is a former teacher turned freelance writer.

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Avital Norman Nathman

Hitler Fueled Nazi Troops with Meth, New Book Claims

Reproduction of Adolf Hitler from the archive of Israeli Nazi hunter Tuviah Friedman (photo credit: Roni Schutzer/Flash90)German author reveals pervasive drug use in Nazi army, says 200 million methamphetamine pills given to soldiers in WWII

While Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler was reportedly increasingly reliant on a heroin-type drug as World War II progressed, a new book by a German author also exposes the Nazi army’s practice of pumping their soldiers with an methamphetamine-based narcotic to keep them awake during long military operations.

In his book “Der Total Rausch” (The Total Rush), German historian Norman Ohler explores the Nazi regime’s obsession with portraying a clean, healthy Aryan race, even as millions of its soldiers relied on a drug called Pervitin to keep them awake for days at a time, the Daily Mail reported.

According to Ohler, by the time the Nazi regime conquered France in May 1940, over 35 million of its soldiers and bureaucrats were popping Pervitin pills every day. Between 1939 and 1945, he writes, 200 million Pervitin pills were distributed to German troops.

Ohler also found that the Pervitin was used specifically for blitzkriegs — intense German military assaults — and claims that much of the success of the invasions of Poland, France and the Sudatenland was down to the stimulants.

Patented by a German chemist in 1937, Pervitin contained methamphetamine, which is essentially a pill form of what is known today as crystal meth. The drug was marketed for alertness and was initially sold over the counter in pharmacies across Europe as an alternative to coffee, before becoming outlawed in 1941.

Ohler, who accessed the records of the Nazi high command, uncovered research by the German Doctors’ Association that showed German officials were also developing a cocaine-based drug for its combat troops. The experimental stimulant, dubbed D-IX, was tested on inmates at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp north of Berlin. Documents showed that inmates on the drug marched 60 kilometers (40 miles) in a single day while carrying heavy army gear.

Even after the drug was outlawed, Ohler found a number of former Nazi officers who said they regularly distributed Pervitin before battle.

Ohler writes that Hitler’s rampant drug use likely contributed to his sense of invulnerability, which ultimately led him to make miscalculated military decisions towards the end of the war.

A 2005 report in German newspaper Der Spiegel first exposed the rampant drug use by German soldiers at the front lines, and documented a number of letters by soldiers who wrote home to their families begging for more Pervitin.

Ohler’s book also describes Hitler’s extensive drug addiction and his relationship with his personal physician, Dr. Theodor Morell.

His conclusions regarding the severity of Hitler’s drug addiction are corroborated by a recently declassified World War II US Military Intelligence dossier, which alleges that Morell gave Hitler a dizzying array of drugs.

Morell provided intravenous glucose and meth when Hitler needed a shot of energy, especially before his speeches. He also prescribed barbiturate tranquilizers for insomnia, and Coramine stimulants if Hitler was over-sedated.

In addition, Morell gave Hitler testosterone injections containing bull’s semen, heart and liver extracts, as well as nasal and eye drops containing cocaine, and adrenocorticosteroids, among other narcotics.

Hitler’s inner circle did not trust Morell, and found both his medical practices and personal hygiene offensive and disgusting. But Hitler trusted him until the Nazi regime collapsed in 1945.

Lazar Berman contributed to this report.

EBay Rejects Hermann Goering’s Mercedes-Benz as Auction Item

Auction House Guidelines ‘Prohibit Sale of Offensive Materials’


Auction website eBay has refused to list a World War II-era Mercedes Benz once owned Hermann Goering, a Nazi leader who commanded the German air force, citing a policy prohibiting the sale of offensive items.
The 1941 Mercedes Benz 540 K Cabriolet B, custom built by Daimler-Benz for Adolf Hitler’s close confidant, is currently in pieces in a high-end south Florida automobile shop, where owners said they plan to spend about $750,000 to restore it to working condition.
“We’ve located all the replacement parts and we can make parts,” said High Velocity Classics co-owner David Rathbun.
eBay, however, asked the owners to take down the auction after learning it would go live in early July.
“eBay has policies in place that prohibit the sale of offensive materials and content, which includes listings that promote or glorify hatred, violence or racial, sexual or religious intolerance,” spokesman Ryan Moore wrote in an email.
According to Rathbun, the car was seized by the U.S. Army’s 7th Infantry Division in Berchtesgaden, a town in the Bavarian Alps where Hitler built a sprawling residence.
After the war it became army surplus and was eventually sold by the head of a psychology institution in Heilbronn to Master Sergeant Sam Hosier, who drove it in occupied Germany. Hosier brought it to the United States and in 1955 sold it to a North Carolina man, who owned it until this year.
The owners would not say how much they paid for the car, only that they hope it will sell for $5 million to $7 million.
Another of Goering’s cars, a convertible Mercedes 540 K nicknamed the Blue Goose, was auctioned in 2011 in Italy by Ontario, Canada-based RM Auctions for about $2 million.
The owners lamented having to turn to traditional high-end auto sales auctions to sell the stretch coupe once work is finished.
“eBay is all over the world, it has hundreds of millions of users, and it was the biggest venue anyone could find,” Rathbun said.