Archive for April, 2015

Oskar Groening trial: Auschwitz survivor subjected to Nazi medical experiments demands answers

April 23rd, 2015

Ms Kor gave a chilling account of her ordeal at the hands of Josef Mengele, the doctor dubbed the Angel of Death who experimented on humans in the notorious death camp.

She said she and her sister Miriam only survived because Mengele was particularly interested in twins, and that within minutes of arriving at Auschwitz the rest of her family were gassed.

She said Mengele and four other doctors came to see her one day after she had undergone a series of injections and was suffering from high fever.

“Mengele looked at my fever chart and laughed sarcastically and said: ‘Too bad. She is so young and she has only two weeks to live’,” Ms Kor told the court in the German town of Lueneburg.

“If I died they would have killed Miriam with an injection to the heart. Mengele would then have carried out a comparative autopsy,” said Ms Kor, who now lives in the US.

She somehow survived, as did her sister. But Miriam, who died in 1993, suffered from decades of kidney problems and later cancer which may have been linked to the Auschwitz experiments.

“I want to know what injections we were given,” Ms Kor told Groening, who impassively listened to her 40-minute address to the court.

It appeared to be a rhetorical question as Groening is not known to have participated in the medical experiments but was instead responsible for inspecting the luggage of arriving prisoners and sending any money found to Berlin to fund the Nazi war effort.

That job led the German media to dub him the “Bookkeeper of Auschwitz.”

On Wednesday he described in detail how cattle cars full of Jews were brought to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the people stripped of their belongings and then most led directly into gas chambers.

So many trains were arriving that often two would have to wait with closed doors as the first was “processed,” Groening said.

Thomas Walther, the lawyer representing several co-plaintiffs, told the Telegraph that three more Britons were now being represented by him, bringing the total of British co-plaintiffs to six.

The trial was moved to a larger venue after the local courtroom was deemed to small. It was adjourned at noon on Wednesday to clear the Ritterakademie venue for a play entitled Guter Sex ist Teuer (Good Sex is Expensive).

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German school teacher ‘made children sing Nazi propaganda song’

April 17th, 2015

However the teacher’s actions may not have been as controversial as they at first appeared.

Although the song is illegal in Germany, there is an exemption when it is sung for educational purposes.

Moreover, the teacher has reportedly told police she was teaching a well-known parody of the song written by the playwright Bertolt Brecht.

Horst Wessel, German Nazi activist (Alamy)

She claims she only got her pupils to hum the melody and tap their feet to the rhythm

Entitled the Kälbermarsch, or Calves’ March, the Brecht parody includes the lines “The butcher calls! The eyes tightly closed/The calf marches with quiet, steady step”.

“The Kälbermarsch cannot be understood without the Horst Wessel Song,” a spokesman for the Berlin Senate Department for Education told reporters.

Police say the case has been referred to be prosecutors, who will now decide whether to take any further action.

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Was Russian gold worth millions lost in the Clyde?

April 14th, 2015

Such a veil of secrecy existed over the whole operation it is not known if it was ever recovered.

In fact, the incident has only come to light at all thanks to a secret diary kept by one of the Ulster Queen’s engineers, and now revealed by his daughter for the first time in a new book.

Leonard H. Thomas from edinburgh who sailed on the Arctic convoys during the second world war pictured in 1941 (Cenral Scotland News Agency)

Edinburgh man Leonard H Thomas served on the Ulster Queen on four convoys to and from Murmansk and Archangel in Russia’s extreme northwest.

Thomas had got into the habit of keeping copious notes and sketches during his pre-war role as a crewman on the research ship RRS Discovery II in the Southern Ocean.

He had joined the Discovery as a 17 year old in his native Portsmouth.

He continued his writings on the Convoys – but aware that should any of his diaries be discovered he would be in serious trouble – he wrote in code and secreted them well.

Before he died in 2000, aged 88, he transcribed some of them into four A4 journals, which his daughter, Leona Thomas, has now edited into a book.

Leona, 61, a retired school teacher, said: “The story about the Russian bullion is fascinating. It must be documented somewhere, but I have never been able to find out what happened afterwards.”

According to her father’s notes, there had been “a peculiar silence all through the ship” as she was loaded in Russia. No-one was allowed on deck, no-one was allowed along the alleyways for’ard of the engine room, and no-one off the mess decks unless they were on watch.

The reasons soon became clear.

Thomas recorded: “No scuttles [were] allowed to be opened, but someone got a gleek out and saw mighty big steam locomotives smothered in soldiers, up and down the cleared area of the track, hundreds of them, all with rifles and many with Tommy guns

“Our guards lined the deck, we later heard, either side of a small derrick which handled the paravanes [mine detectors]. A huge, dark wagon was coaxed, nudged, and jogged until the derrick’s fall was hanging vertically and a rope net was placed on the ground.

“Officers approached the wagon and examined locks and bolts [with] armed troops literally surrounding it. Then began the laborious manual exercise of [unloading] what looked like ammunition boxes, which required two men to lift.

“Surely this wasn’t small arms ammunition! Not with our own guards and hundreds of troops watching it loaded into us. It certainly was not. It was bullion!

“Two boxes were enough to load the sling and up they went, deposited on our deck, from where each one was slid and lowered down into the ‘B Gun’ magazine, never out of sight of at least one officer.

“This was the arrangement so that the millions could be spent in the USA to arm the Russians.”

“Then into the Wardroom [went the] harassed officials, who, we heard, lashed into the whisky ‘as if it were free’! Probably, with all that off their hands, they could afford to.”

Once back in the Clyde, after “a fast run down the Minches”, calamity was to come, however.

Thomas wrote: “It was very late when we saw the welcoming but shaded lights of the Boom Control vessels, hauling left and right to usher us through the widening but regulated aperture, and suddenly the serenity of approaching a hallowed anchorage and being met by a small but important armada and a lighter.

The Ulster Queen in 1942 when it employed as an Irish sea ferry (Central Scotland News Agency)

“For the next hour it was cloak-and-dagger stuff again, no-one allowed on the upper deck for’ard of the Wardroom or on the working alleyways. We heard that troops and all sorts were organised to receive the bullion from where it had been man-handled onto the upper deck.

“The paravane derrick was reeved [threaded] and a wire was taken with snatch blocks to a winch.

“The first two boxes were slung with a hemp rope-sling.

“In the shaded lights were many officials, officers, men in good suits, bayonets, torches, clipboards, tarpaulins, surreptitious smokers, but nary an onlooker.

“Our Captain anxiously peered over the port wing of the bridge, his nose barely over the canvas dodger, to observe the last rites of the Russian bullion.

“And then it happened. The first boxes, two in number, were being hauled toward the lighter, and who knows what happened, but one slipped and fell with a resounding thump and a splash into the Clyde.

“I was told on good authority that it was nothing so much as resembling a H. M. Bateman cartoon. Needless to say, all were to blame according to what was imparted as a result of this shocking affair.

“The rest was capably transferred to a lighter, various bits of paper signed, exchanged, and pocketed, and a tug chuffed up to pull the lighter clear.”

Written in the diaries left for Leona, her father said: “I was thankful to keep all these years, the actual daily scroll of some of the harrowing times I found myself in, especially the runs in the arctic waters so fraught with danger, both man-made and that of nature.”

Leona said of the gold: “Who knows, it may still be there.”

Through Ice and Fire: A Russian Arctic Convoy Diary 1942, is published by Fonthill Media

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My Nazi grandfather would have murdered me

April 13th, 2015

Flicking through its pages, she realised with a start that a photo of a woman in a summer dress perfectly matched the picture she had of her grandmother, Ruth Irene. What’s more, the photo of the author on the cover of the book – entitled I Have To Love My Father, Right? – look familliar, too. It was that of her birth mother, Monika.

“It was this immediate physical shock,” she told me. “I felt this physical need to just lie down. I had to leave the library.

“I became weak because I knew that this book would give me so many answers. When you grow up with so many open questions in your head, this is something that turns your life upside down.”

Jennifer Teege and her adoptive brother Matthias

Teege was so startled to find any information about her family that the subject matter of the book almost passed her by completely.

It only hit her as her husband drove her home.

Her grandfather, Amon Goeth, had been a Nazi: the commandant of Plaszow concentration camp.

Teege recalls staying up all night researching his story online and feeling like she had “entered a chamber of horrors”. She discovered that Goeth, called ‘the Butcher of Plaszow’ was “a man who killed people by the dozen and, what is more, enjoyed it”.

He quickly rose through the Nazi ranks, slaughtering 2,000 Jews during the clearing of the Krakow Ghetto and up to 12,000 as the chief of Plaszow (a 200-acre camp built by the Nazis on top of a Jewish cemetery near Krakow, Poland).

What’s more, he was a natural sadist. He trained his two dogs, a Great Dane and an Alsatian called Rolf and Ralf, to tear humans apart and would often ride around the camp on his white horse wearing white gloves and a white scarf. His costume was a sign to the prisoners that he was in a particularly vicious mood.

The Polish prosecutor at his trial in 1946, described him as: “a man who has become a legend in his lifetime for being the modern incarnation of the biblical Satan”.

Goeth’s special brand of horror was given lasting infamy by Steven Spielberg in the film Schindler’s List, with Ralph Fiennes playing the role.

His name has stuck in the public consciousness thanks to one scene in particular – where he takes potshots at prisoners from his bedroom balcony, described as “his personal form of morning exercise” in Teege’s own book, My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me (an English translation of which has just been published in the UK to coincide with Yom HaShoah, the Jewish Holocaust remembrance day).

Teege in Israel in 1992, aged 16

During that night of feverish internet searches, Teege, now 44, remembered having watched Schindler’s List in Israel. She spent four years there as a student and learnt to speak fluent Hebrew.

And by another astonishing coincidence, or twist of fate – Teege is still undecided – in the course of her research, she discovered that her biological mother was appearing in a TV documentary about Goeth’s death camp the following evening.

Teege desperately wanted to find an explanation for her grandfather’s behaviour. She assumed – hoped, even – that she would find “some traumatic incident in his childhood that would explain his cruelty”.

But Goeth’s upbringing was perfectly normal.

Nor could she find any signs of remorse in either grandparent. Goeth’s final act was a Nazi salute and shout of “Heil Hitler!” before he was hanged in 1946.

Teege’s grandmother, Ruth, lived happily in Goeth’s camp villa as his loyal mistress, after the couple were introduced by Oskar Schindler. They never married but Ruth went to great efforts to take her fiance’s surname after his death, a name Teege herself had until her adoption at the age of seven.

Right up until the end, when she committed suicide in 1983, Ruth had a picture of Goeth hanging above her bed. She used to gush about her lover as “a real gentleman”. He had impeccable table manners, she remembered fondly.

According to one of Goeth’s Jewish former maids: “Most of the time, [Ruth] was busy lying around with a cucumber mask on her face. She would turn the music way up so that she couldn’t hear the shots.”

Spielberg portrayed her burying her head in the pillow while Goeth was shooting from his balcony.

Teege is keen to point out that, after the war, Ruth lived with an African and a gay man. “So she was open-minded. I have tried to analyse her. There’s so much complexity that you can’t define her.”

Unsurprisingly, Teege was unable to leave the house for two weeks following her toxic discovery. She eventually sought help from a psychoanalyst who burst into tears during their first meeting.

But it wasn’t her grandfather’s atrocities that shook Teege most. Rather it was her grandmother’s complicity.

The Nazi mistress was the person who “mattered most” to Teege when she was a fearful and neglected child – who held her hand and “radiated kindness” until she was adopted.

“Her character is so interesting,” Teege says. “She represents the majority of people during the war who followed the system.

“To differentiate yourself from my grandfather is very easy. Within my grandmother, it’s easier to see oneself. It begs the question: How would I have behaved?”

Teege’s grandmother and Goeth’s mistress, Ruth

Teege, a married mother of two who has established a successful career in advertising, has wrestled with the notion that she has Goeth’s blood flowing through her veins.

She was disturbed by an article she read in 2010, detailing how Bettina Goering – the great-niece of Hitler’s second-in-command – had been sterilised so she would “not pass on the blood of a monster”.

“I feel a bit sorry for her,” says Teege haltingly. “This in my eyes is so fundamentally wrong. Because you can decide who you want to be, and to set a different example is better than to cut the blood line. Actually it was one of the quotes that inspired me to share my story with the public.”

One also gets the sense that, with her book, she is trying to reach out to her mother. Monika agreed to meet her following the library discovery, but she has since shunned her daughter’s approaches.

Teege says with a smile: “I hope she has read it.”

She also insists that the story will always have relevance:

“I hope that society has developed, but look what is happening now with Islamic State. I mean, there are people here from London – they grew up normally and they are following an ideology. There is still a danger out there that people follow blindly.”

Writing the book, along with copious therapy, has helped Teege come to terms with her poisonous inheritance.

But it is also helping others.

“I met one survivor at my last event in Israel,” she says. “He was in the front row and during the Q&A, his daughter told me that he was a survivor from Plaszow and his father was the personal shoemaker of my grandfather. He said my grandfather was his worst nightmare as a child and he wasn’t sure at first whether he wanted to come to this event.

“In his words, he said, ‘You are my birthday present’.

He was turning 80 the following week and he said he was really happy that he met me, because he could see that history does not have to repeat itself.”

My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me, by Jennifer Teege and Nikola Sellmair, is published by Hodder & Stoughton (£20)

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Goering, Goering, gone: Nazi heavyweight’s uniform for sale at £85k

April 10th, 2015

John Cabello, of Devon-Parade Antiques, Plymouth, where the uniform is being sold, said: “Goering was hugely overweight and had a tendency to perspire a lot. That would explain the profusion of sweat in the tunic.

“He also had a habit when he used to walk around talking to people of putting his left hand into his left pocket. Because of this the wear on the left pocket is substantially more than the right.”

Mr Cabello bought the item at auction from a Swiss collector.

The outfit was made by the Viennese tailor, Tiller, who was known to have made uniforms for the Nazis during the war.

Although the tailoring of dove grey blue ensemble is very good, the materials used are of remarkably lower quality when compared to the uniforms worn by Nazi officers at the beginning of the war.

Mr Cabello, from Plymouth, Devon, said: “As the war progressed, it got harder to get materials and quality everywhere went down.

“There was also an effort by Goering to appear less grand during the latter part of the war. This is because as he was going around meeting the population, if he looks like he is living in opulence when they are in poverty it would not go down well.”

The uniform is being sold as a set which includes the original tunic, trousers and braces worn by Goering as well as a replica peaked cap and an original Nazi general’s belt that would not have been owned by the Nazi commander.

It is being sold by Parade Antiques in Plymouth, Devon.

Goering committed suicide in October 1946 the night before he was to have been hanged.

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UK’s biggest Second World War air raid shelter reveals life on Home Front

April 10th, 2015

Howard Green, the museum’s duty officer, said: “Chestergate, the street outside was busiest east-west routet the town; even at the levels of 1930s traffic it was too narrow. The long term was to cover over the River Mersey, which is where the M62 is.

“But in the interim, they decided to buy properties there and demolish them for widening and straightening.

“A lot of the older properties backing into the cliff had cellars and it seemed a pity to seal them up. There were things to be done, so there was talk of joining them together as an underground car park.

“The other thing was that in the lead up to the Second World War, local authorities had to establish public air raid shelters in towns.

“So they decided to join cellars together, get the grant for the air raid shelters, then they could get the money back twice by letting out the parking spaces.”

The biggest purpose built air raid shelter in the UK attracted terrified victims of the blitz from across Cheshire and Lancashire at the height of the war. The tunnels, dug into the sandstone cliffs running alongside the river Mersey in Stockport were state of the art in 1930s Britain, with electric lighting and flush toilets, and could hold up to 6,500 people.

Unfortunately for the council at the time, the car park proved impossible after the engineering survey.

Mr Green said: “The official capacity was 3,850, so outside they painted 4,000, but what they didn’t advertise was that they thought they could squeeze twice as many in if needs be.

“They were used extensively by people from Manchester and Salford, and even as far as Eccles.

“Stockport was less of a target, and the underground shelters were a particularly safe place, so they came on a regular basis, what they did was introduce season tickets, they were issued to locals, although you could write in if you had difficult circumstances. We still have some letters from people in Manchester who’d been bombed out several times.

The biggest purpose built air raid shelter in the UK attracted terrified victims of the blitz from across Cheshire and Lancashire at the height of the war. The tunnels, dug into the sandstone cliffs running alongside the river Mersey in Stockport were state of the art in 1930s Britain, with electric lighting and flush toilets, and could hold up to 6,500 people.

“It was really only a way of damping down demand, nobody was denied entrance in an alert.

“In the winter of 1940 and 41, it went up to 6,500, with another four sets of tunnel shelters. Once they had the format right, it was something that could be done elsewhere in the town, where they could get into red sandstone.

“If you know where to look you can see the blocked up tunnels of one set of shelters on the other side, where the M62 goes through Stockport; further back into hillside, you can see the tunnel cut short and bricked off.

“People are always surprised by is the extent of them, and just how much thought and planning went into them, we’ve had German visitors saying our government did nothing as elaborate.

“There were first aid posts, electric lighting and flush toilets, which people living in back to back cottages of town centres wouldn’t have had at home.”

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The 23 best war movies

April 9th, 2015

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) / Lewis Milestone

Winner of two Oscars in 1930, All Quiet on the Western Front explored how the Great War affected young soldiers. With minimal dialogue the film focuses on acting and cinematography to portray the horrors of war. Allegedly, during the film’s showings in Germany, the Nazis interrupted screenings by shouting martial slogans and releasing rats into the theatres.

Picture: Everett Collection/REX

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Japan emperor heads for WW2 battlefield as war memories haunt Asia

April 8th, 2015

Some 10,000 Japanese defenders, fighting in the name of Akihito’s father, Emperor Hirohito, died in a two-month battle in 1944 on Palau’s tiny Peleliu island along with about 1,600 American troops. Unaware Japan had surrendered on August 15, 1945, 34 Japanese soldiers hid in the jungle until April 1947.

Besides mourning war dead at home, Akihito has sought to help reconciliation with former enemies. In 1992, he became the first reigning Japanese monarch to visit China, where wartime memories still rankle.

Akihito and Empress Michiko marked the 60th anniversary of the conflict’s end with a trip to the US territory of Saipan, site of fierce fighting in 1944.

The soft-spoken Akihito, 81, has often urged Japan not to forget the suffering of the war. Such comments have attracted increased attention at a time when the Japanese prime minister appears to be pushing for a less apologetic tone towards Japan’s past.

“He has been saying the Japanese need to reflect on their history, including the dark chapters,” said Portland State university’s Kenneth Ruoff, author of The People’s Emperor: Democracy and the Japanese Monarchy, 1945-1995.

Some young Japanese also worry memories are fading. “Until now, you had veterans and families of the deceased who could talk about their experiences,” said Atsushi Hirano, 22, a student who travels to old battlefields to help collect remains and bring them home.

“But those people are older now and it is harder to hear about their experiences first hand.”

Members of Japan’s dwindling band of veterans are grateful for the royal pilgrimages. “We felt we had to fight on for the country, for the emperor, for our families,” said Masao Horie, survivor of a doomed campaign in New Guinea, where more Japanese soldiers died of starvation and disease than in battle.

“I am truly grateful that the emperor goes to places like Saipan and Palau,” the 99-year-old said.

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Did a Nazi bomb fall near your house?

April 8th, 2015

More than 30,000 bombs fell in London during the blitz, but not all of them exploded.

Last week, 1,200 residents had to leave their homes in Bermondsey, London, after a 1,000lb Nazi bomb was discovered in the area. A few days later, a resident brought an old artillery shell into a police station in Bourne, Lincolnshire. Later that week, a gardener handed in yet another unexploded bomb in Goole.

But given the huge number of bombs the Nazis dropped on Britain, it isn’t surprising that we’re still finding remnants 70 years later. The map above, compiled using data from, shows the locations where bombs fell in London during the blitz. Was your street affected? Scroll through our map and zoom in to get a sense of where the bombs fell during World War Two.

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Take a tour of the biggest purpose built air raid shelter in the UK: In pics

April 7th, 2015

These tunnels that were dug into the sandstone cliffs running alongside the river Mersey in Stockport bacame state of the art in 1930s Britain, with electric lighting and flush toilets, and could hold up to 6,500 people

Picture: Dan Rowlands/Mercury Press & Media Ltd

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