Sophie Scholl’s Final Words

Today in History –> Seventy-eight years ago today Sophie Scholl (along with Hans Scholl and Christoph Probst) a twenty-one year old German student and anti-Nazi political activist, active within the White Rose non-violent resistance group in Nazi Germany having been convicted of treason was executed by the guillotine.

In February of 1943, the [White Rose group] was apprehended when leaving pamphlets in suitcases all across the University of Munich. Sophie took to a balcony that overlooked a courtyard and scattered reams of flyers as students exited classes. Her action was witnessed by the school’s janitor, who reported Sophie and Hans to the Gestapo. After being interrogated for nearly 24 hours, Sophie emerged from questioning with a broken leg but a steely spirit. She was quoted as saying, “I’ll make no bargain with the Nazis.”

The students’ hearing began a mere four days after their arrest and, because all pled guilty, they were not allowed to testify. Still, Sophie did not sit quietly throughout the proceedings. She interrupted the judge throughout, with statements like: “Somebody had to make a start! What we said and wrote are what many people are thinking. They just don’t dare say it out loud!” and “You know the war is lost. Why don’t you have the courage to face it?”

She was allowed one official statement: “Time and time again one hears it said that since we have been put into a conflicting world, we have to adapt to it. Oddly, this completely un-Christian idea is most often espoused by so-called Christians, of all people. How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone who will give himself up to a righteous cause? I did the best that I could do for my nation. I therefore do not regret my conduct and will bear the consequences.” She and her fellow defendants were sentenced to death by execution, which was carried out within hours of the decision. On the back of Sophie’s indictment, she wrote the word “Freedom”. Her reported last words were, “Die Sonne scheint noch”—”The sun still shines.”

Her last words:

How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause. Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”
~ Sophie Scholl

Dwight D. Eisenhower Vigilance to Preserve the Truth

Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower had studied his World War II enemy, he was unprepared for the Nazi brutality he witnessed at Ohrdruf concentration camp in April 1945. Bodies were piled like wood and living skeletons struggled to survive. On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, learn how Eisenhower foresaw a day when the horrors of the Holocaust might be denied and hear about his vigilance to preserve its truth…

Otto Frank Liberated from Auschwitz

On this day in 1945, the Russian army liberates Auschwitz concentration camp. Otto Frank is one of around 8,000 prisoners remaining in the camp, most of them desperately ill.

Otto Frank is the only one of the eight people who hid in the Secret Annex to survive the horrors of the war. He has lost his wife Edith and his daughters Margot and Anne.

Shortly before his death he says:

“I am now almost ninety and my strength is slowly failing. Still, the task I received from Anne continues to restore my energy: to struggle for reconciliation and human rights throughout the world.”

Otto Frank died on 19 August 1980.

Photo Otto Frank 1979.

#HMD #HolocaustMemorialDay #Auschwitz

Steve Ross (né Szmulek Rozental)

Holocaust survivor Steve Ross (né Szmulek Rozental) was born in 1931 near Łódź, Poland. He spent five years in ten different concentration camps, including Budzyń, Auschwitz, and Dachau. He survived medical experiments, starvation, sexual abuse, and brutal beatings on a daily basis. When Ross was liberated from Dachau in April 1945, he was 14 years old and weighed 50 lbs. Among the American troops who liberated the camp was Lt. Steve Sattler, whose act of kindness restored Ross’s hope in humanity, even after everything he had been through. When Lt. Sattler saw Ross, he jumped down from atop his tank, hugged the emaciated child, and shared his food rations with him. He also gave the boy a handkerchief decorated with the American flag. After the war, Ross settled in the Boston area where he became a social worker and spent his life helping at-risk youth. When speaking to students about his experience, he would carefully unfurl the American flag handkerchief, and share how one small act of kindness can transform a life.

Photo: Steve Ross holding handkercheif (Getty Images)

Source: American Society for Yad Vashem

First Kindertransport

82 years ago, the first Kindertransport train left Germany:

Following the Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938, the British government changed its immigration policy to allow Jewish children to enter the country, providing that charities could pay a £50 bond for each child as a guarantee that they would leave the country when the situation improved. The children’s parents were not allowed to join them unless they had the financial means to support themselves, so most children travelled alone on what became known as the Kindertransport (‘children’s transport’).

Most of the almost 10,000 Kindertransportees never saw their parents again.

#Kindertransport #Holocaust

Einsatzgruppen: An Overview

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“Einsatzgruppen were special SS and police units tasked with securing occupied territories as German armed forces advanced in eastern Europe. Following the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, these squads ruthlessly carried out the mass murder of Soviet Jews, Roma, and political opponents.”

~ United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

From  1941-1944, Nazi SS and German police forces, German military units, and local collaborators killed more than 2 million Jews residing in the Soviet Union in mass shooting operations.  The Germans deployed four Einsatzgruppen, dozens of police battalions, and units of the Military SS in the occupied Soviet Union. They conducted so-called pacification actions with a priority placed on annihilating Soviet Jews in shooting operations.  Of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, about 40 percent were killed in mass shootings. Confiscation of property was an integral aspects of the mass shooting process. Following massacres, Jewish property not directly seized by the Germans was typically auctioned or distributed to their neighbors. Shootings were local, public, and witnessed by neighbors. The Germans pressed many of these neighbors into service as clerks, grave diggers, wagon drivers, and cooks to provide support for the mass killing actions.

Today, remains of Nazi Germany’s victims lie in hundreds of mass graves.  They were under the command of the German Security Police and Security Service officers. The Einsatzgruppen had among their tasks the murder of those perceived to be racial or political enemies found behind German combat lines in the occupied Soviet Union.  These victims included Jews, Roma (Gypsies), and officials of the Soviet state and the Soviet Communist party. The Einsatzgruppen also murdered thousands of residents of institutions for the mentally and physically disabled. Many scholars believe that the systematic killing of Jews in the occupied Soviet Union by Einsatzgruppen and Order Police battalions was the first step of the “Final Solution.”

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The German army provided logistical support to the Einsatzgruppen, including supplies, transportation, housing, and occasionally manpower in the form of units to guard and transport prisoners. At first the Einsatzgruppen shot primarily Jewish men, but by late summer 1941 wherever the Einsatzgruppen went they shot Jewish men, women, and children without regard for age or sex, and buried them in mass graves. Often with the help of local informants and interpreters, Jews in a given locality were identified and taken to collection points.

Shooting was the most common form of killing used by the Einsatzgruppen. Yet in the late summer of 1941, Heinrich Himmler, noting the psychological burden that mass shootings produced on his men, requested that a more convenient mode of killing be developed. The result was the gas van, a mobile gas chamber surmounted on the chassis of a cargo truck which employed carbon monoxide from the truck’s exhaust to kill its victims. Gas vans made their first appearance on the eastern front in late fall 1941, and were eventually utilized, along with shooting, to murder Jews and other victims in most areas where the Einsatzgruppen operated.

The Einsatzgruppen were composed of four battalion-sized operational groups:

Einsatzgruppe A fanned out from East Prussia across Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia toward Leningrad.

Einsatzgruppe B started from Warsaw in occupied Poland, and fanned out across Belorussia toward Smolensk and Minsk.

Einsatzgruppe C began operations from Krakow and fanned out across the western Ukraine toward Kharkov and Rostov-on-Don. Around Kiev, famously in two days in late September 1941 units of Einsatzgruppe detachment 4a massacred 33,771 Kiev Jews in the ravine at Babi Yar.

Einsatzgruppe D operated farthest south of the four units. in the southern Ukraine and the Crimea.

Einsatzgruppen members were drawn from the SS, Waffen SS (military formations of the SS), SD, Sipo, Order Police, and other police units.  By the spring of 1943, the Einsatzgruppen and Order Police battalions had killed over a million Soviet Jews and tens of thousands of Soviet political commissars, partisans, Roma, and institutionalized disabled persons. The mobile killing methods, particularly shooting, proved to be inefficient and psychologically burdensome to the killers. Even as Einsatzgruppen units carried out their operations, the German authorities planned and began construction of special stationary gassing facilities at centralized killing centers in order to murder vast numbers of Jews.

Sources: “Masters of Death,” Rhodes, Richard. 2003. “Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland,” Browning, Christopher. 1994. “Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust.” Goldhagen, Daniel Jonah. 1996.  ushmm.org.  jewishvirtuallibrary.org.

Babi Yar

On September 29th, we remember one of the largest single mass murders of the Holocaust. Beginning on September 29, 1941, German forces and their auxiliaries rounded up and killed the Jews of Kiev, Ukraine, at a ravine called Babi Yar. In just two days, 33,771 Jewish men, women, and children were shot.

The Babi Yar massacre remains a harrowing example of Nazi atrocities during the invasion of the Soviet Union. In the months following the massacre, German authorities stationed at Kiev killed thousands more Jews at Babi Yar, as well as non-Jews including Roma (Gypsies), Communists, and Soviet prisoners of war. It is estimated that some 100,000 people were murdered at Babi Yar.

#Holocaust #Remembrance #BabiYar

Anti-Semitism Rising In Europe

“Studying the Holocaust shouldn’t be limited to history classes. It must become part of curricula of political & civic education, ethics, media or religious studies. Ideologies of hatred that led to Auschwitz still poison people’s minds.”
~ Piotr Cywiński, Historian and Director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, active participant and often initiator in the Polish-Jewish and Christian-Jewish dialogue.

Anti-Semitism in Europe (ComRes Polling for CNN):

~ One in four said Jews have too much influence in conflict and wars across the world.

~ One in five said they have too much influence in the media and politics.

~ A third of Europeans in the poll said they knew just a little or nothing at all about the Holocaust. One in 20 in had never heard of the Holocaust.

~ A third of Europeans said that Jews use the Holocaust to advance their own positions or goals.

~ A third of Europeans said supporters of Israel use accusations of anti-Semitism to shut down criticism of Israel.

~ A third of Europeans said commemorating the Holocaust distracts from other atrocities today.

~ 40% said Jews were at risk of racist violence in their countries and half said their governments should do more to fight anti-Semitism.

~ Americans do not fare any better: A survey carried out on behalf of the Claims Conference earlier this year found that 10% of American adults were not sure they’d ever heard of the Holocaust, rising to one in five millennials. Half of all millennials could not name a single concentration camp, and 45% of all American adults failed to do so.