Category Archive: Nazis

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’

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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.

Leo Melamed Retraces Path of Escape From Nazis to Japanese Port

Mercantile Exchange Chief Rescued by ‘Japanese Schindler’

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To this day, Leo Melamed recalls vividly the first thing his mother did when his family walked off the boat at the small Japanese port city of Tsuruga.
“She told me that she can now let go of my hand,” Melamed recalled. “She held my hand for two years straight.”
It was the first safe land the Jewish family had stepped on since fleeing their home in Nazi-occupied Poland two years earlier.
“This is the first time I can take a deep breath without being afraid that it might be my last,” his mother told her husband and her 7-year-old son when they stepped off the boat.
Back then, the young refugee was still called Leibel Melamdovich. But it was as Leo Melamed that he would later become one of the world’s best-known financial innovators, father of the futures market and of currency trading exchanges that have revolutionized stock markets worldwide.
As he spoke with the Forward in late June, Melamed was preparing to travel back to Tsuruga, the port of his boyhood refuge, to help memorialize the experiences he and 2,000 other Jews had there. They were a fortunate cohort saved by the intervention of the Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara — sometimes known as the Japanese Raul Wallenberg or Oskar Schindler — even as his government prepared to ally itself with Nazi Germany.

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SS war criminal lived in Britain for 66 years

Nazi hunter claims recently deceased 89-year-old was a member of unit that massacred Poles, Jews during WWII

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A Nazi soldier who helped murder Jews during the Holocaust lived undetected in London for 66 years until his recent death, a British Nazi hunter said

The man, a former SS soldier in a unit that massacred Poles and Jews during World War II, was identified as Serhij Woronyj by the Daily Mail, which reported about the case on Thursday. He worked as a printer and lived a London apartment until his death from a heart attack in March 2013 at the age of 89.

A private researcher, Stephen Ankier, told the Daily Mail that his research showed that Woronyj belonged to the 31st Punitive Brigade, also known as the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion, which later became part of the 14th SS-Volunteer Division “Galician.”

The SS division was involved in putting down the Warsaw Uprising, in which an estimated 200,000 civilians and rebel fighters were killed.

Woronyj was captured by British forces in 1945 after the unit surrendered itself to the British at the end of the war, calling themselves the First Division of the Ukrainian National Army. They presented themselves as nationalists dedicated to the anti-Soviet cause and were accepted to settle in Britain with minimal checks for war crimes.

Ankier traced Woronyj after making dozens of trips to scour archives in Germany and Poland as well as travelling all over Britain, the Daily Mail reported.

Soldiers from the division were also involved in the destruction of Huta Pieniacka, a village in Poland that also served as a shelter for Jews, in which 1,000 people were killed.

One of Woronyj’s neighbors, who did not want to be named, said he was “a big man who kept himself to himself.”

Ankier made international headlines last year after he discovered one of the unit’s commanders, Michael Karkoc, living in Minnesota. German authorities are now considering if there is enough hard evidence to prosecute Karkoc and have him extradited from the United States.

‘Britain’s Schindler’ to Receive Czech Honor

Sir Nicholas Winton saved more than 650 Jewish children from the Nazis

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Between March and September 1939, British stockbroker Nicholas Winton saved more than 650 children, most of them Jewish, by arranging kindertransports from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovkia to the United Kingdom. Winton, the London-born son of German Jews, was moved to action after visiting Prague in December 1938 and seeing firsthand the worsening conditions for the country’s Jews. The undertaking often required falsifying documents or bribing officials, but Winton managed to orchestrate eight transports of children to the U.K. by the time World War II broke out in September 1939.

The children spared the fates that befell their families and friends during the Holocaust didn’t know who their benefactor was, as Winton never publicized his actions. It wasn’t until a BBC television special in 1989 invited an unsuspecting Winton to the studio that the now-grown children saved on Winton’s transports were able to thank him in person. (A documentary about Winton, Nicky’s Family, was released in 2011.)

Now the 105-year-old, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2002, is being properly thanked by the Czech Republic. He will receive the Order of the White Lion, the country’s highest honor, at a ceremony in October, the Daily Mail reports.

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Nazis formed secret army to overthrow Allies after WWII

New documents reveal plans to recruit 40,000 soldiers, restore ‘honor’ to homeland

Nazi troops march to the rear as American forces advance in Belgium, December 1944. (photo credit: US Signal Corps/public domain)  Read more: Nazis formed secret army to overthrow Allies after WWII

Nazi officers formed a secret army after the end of World War II and had plans to overthrow the Allies who occupied Germany, according to a report published this week based on newly available documents by the German intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND).

A group of 2,000 soldiers — veterans of the Nazi-era Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS — formed the group, and with a plan to recruit 40,000, they spied on politicians and amassed weapons to attack opposing forces, including the Soviets in East Germany, the files revealed.

Their aim was to restore “honor” and “to defend nascent West Germany against Eastern aggression in the early stages of the Cold War and, on the domestic front, to deploy against the Communists in the event of a civil war,” Der Spiegel reported.

The discovery of the documents was accidental, the German magazine revealed, detailing how a German historian working for an Independent Historical Commission hired by the BND to research its history and that of its predecessor (the Gehlen Organization), stumbled upon the files, which had been given the title “Insurances.” The historian Agilolf Kesselring published his study this week.

“The involvement of leading figures in Germany’s future armed forces, the Bundeswehr, are an indication of just how serious the undertaking was likely to have been,” Der Spiegel reported.

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New find may bring Nazi-tainted art trove to $2b

Additional 180 paintings discovered in Salzburg and at house near Austrian salt mines of the ‘Monuments Men’

The backyard of Cornelius Gurlitt's house in near the famous Austrian salt mines. (Europics/Puls 4)

The backyard of Cornelius Gurlitt’s house in near the famous Austrian salt mines. (Europics/Puls 4)

SALZBURG, Austria — The saga of the trove of artworks hoarded away under the Nazis by the son of art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt was given a new twist this week with the discovery of a third house in a town in the Austrian state of Styria that may well contain further pieces of art.
The location of the third house in Bad Aussee next to the salt mines where the vast majority of the art looted by the Nazis had been stored had been unknown until now, because it had been in the hands of Hildrebrand’s cousin Wolfgang, who had also gathered art for the Nazis. On the same day that its location was revealed, Austrian officials also admitted that they had apparently “missed” another 180 paintings from a previously discovered residence that had “suddenly” been discovered.

Austrian officials indicated these new works were found in the house in Salzburg of Hildebrand’s son Cornelius Gurlitt, who claimed he had inherited the collection from his father, who took orders from Hitler to buy and sell so-called “degenerate art” to fund Nazi activities during World War II.
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