PEOPLE AND PLACES

PEOPLE AND PLACES

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The return of the Neo-Nazis: Inside the eerie military shelters in Poland

 

 

 

 

 

Bunkers: The vast network of tunnels and underground bunkers is located in the Sowie Mountains in Lower Silesia and forms the so-called Project Riese - a top secret Nazi construction operation in Poland. Pictured is a large hall area inside complex Rzeczka

 THE RETURN OF THE NEO-NAZIS: INSIDE THE EERIE MILITARY SHELTERS IN POLAND
Peter de Hoo's father saved Paulette Cooper's life with a well-timed bribe in July 1943. On Saturday, the pair met for the first time (pictured above)  
   

'Blood oozed through the soil at grave sites. You could see the pits move, some of them were still alive':

The secrets of Ukraine's shameful 'Holocaust of Bullets' killing centre where 1.6million Jews were executed

  • WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
  • Jews were humiliated and murdered one by one in Ukraine during WW2
  • Many of them were forced to stand in front of mass graves and shot dead
  • Women were stripped naked, beaten in the streets during 'organised riots'
  • Witnesses today have broken their silence to tell of Ukraine's killing centre

Seventy years on from the end of the Second World War the full, shocking scale of the Nazi-inspired Holocaust in Ukraine is finally being revealed - thanks to pioneering work by a French Catholic priest to research the truth of the industrial-scale killing.

Around 2,000 mass graves of Jewish victims have been located where men, women and children were shot and buried by the Germans and their collaborators.

But there maybe up to 6,000 more sites to uncover, with victims of this 'Holocaust of bullets' - so called because unlike in Poland and Germany where gas chambers were used as the means of slaughter - here most were summarily shot and buried nearby.

In many cases, the Jews were ordered to dig pits and then to strip naked before they were mown down by their murderers.

Some were buried in the unmarked plots while still alive.

Scroll down for video 

Genocide: Between 1.4million and 1.6million Jewish people were killed in Ukraine during the second World War and buried in mass graves like this one in Kamianets-Podilskyi

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Genocide: Between 1.4million and 1.6million Jewish people were killed in Ukraine during the second World War and buried in mass graves like this one in Kamianets-Podilskyi

Cruelty: The Nazis mowed people down in a 'Holocaust of Bullets' and also subjected Jews to horrendous public humiliation by forcing them to strip in the streets (pictured) before beating them

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Cruelty: The Nazis mowed people down in a 'Holocaust of Bullets' and also subjected Jews to horrendous public humiliation by forcing them to strip in the streets (pictured) before beating them

Violence: A Jewish man is kicked to the ground during a pogrom in the Ukrainian city of Lviv in 1941 

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Violence: A Jewish man is kicked to the ground during a pogrom in the Ukrainian city of Lviv in 1941 

Unthinkable: Witnesses have told of how the Nazis killed Ukrainian Jews (pictured) 'for fun', 'out of anger, boredom, drunkenness', or 'to rape the girls'

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Unthinkable: Witnesses have told of how the Nazis killed Ukrainian Jews (pictured) 'for fun', 'out of anger, boredom, drunkenness', or 'to rape the girls'

Blood oozed through the soil at sites of these graves, according to accounts assiduously collected by French Catholic priest, Father Patrick Desbois, who began his search by seeking to trace his grandfather's experience as a prisoner of war held in a concentration camp by the Nazis in Ukraine during the Second World War.

He uncovered accounts of how Jews were killed by the Nazis 'for fun', or 'out of anger, boredom, drunkenness', or 'to rape the girls'.

Yet the Soviet Union, for its own motives, obscured the full scale of the Holocaust on its own territory.

Leading historian Mikhail Tyaglyy told MailOnline the number of Jewish victims in Ukraine is between 1.4million and 1.6million, significantly higher than the oft-quoted figure of around one million.

The priest's search took him to four sites around Rava Ruska, close to the Ukrainian border with Poland, where 15,000 Jews were slain, and also the site of a Nazi camp where his grandfather Claudius Desbois had been held as a prisoner of war.

Gradually, elderly locals who had kept quiet all their lives - mainly under Soviet rule - opened up to him, as hundreds more did in many other villages and towns in Ukraine.

One account from Rava Ruska was of a Nazi officer who spotted a young Jewish woman running out of the ghetto to buy butter at the market. He ordered her to be stripped naked, and demanded the trader smear her with the butter after which he decreed her beaten to death with sticks. 

Atrocity: Sometimes the Nazis would make the Jews dig the pits before they shot them to death - and many of the victims were buried in unmarked plots (pictured)

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Atrocity: Sometimes the Nazis would make the Jews dig the pits before they shot them to death - and many of the victims were buried in unmarked plots (pictured)

Assault: Not only were the Jews in Ukraine mowed down by Nazi shooters, many were subject to brutal public beatings on the country's streets (pictured)

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Assault: Not only were the Jews in Ukraine mowed down by Nazi shooters, many were subject to brutal public beatings on the country's streets (pictured)

Infanticide: The beating of Jewish women in the streets of Ukraine (pictured) was a regular occurrence and one witness told how a cruel Nazi grabbed a woman's two-year-old child and beat its head against a wall

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Infanticide: The beating of Jewish women in the streets of Ukraine (pictured) was a regular occurrence and one witness told how a cruel Nazi grabbed a woman's two-year-old child and beat its head against a wall

In another case he recounted how 'an unspeakably cruel German soldier grabbed a Jewish woman's child from her'.

He added: 'He was barely two years old, and he took him and banged his head repeatedly against the wall... The child died in pools of blood in front of the parent's eyes.'

In separate testimony, an elderly witness called Yaroslav showed him to a site outside the town, and told him how he witnessed the horror of mass killing as a 13 year old boy in 1942.

A German arrived alone on a motorcycle. He rode around the village. Everyone wondered why. It turned out, he was planning the site of what would become Rava Ruska's Jewish mass grave

Father Patrick Desbois, Catholic priest

He was the first of the elderly villagers to speak: many others followed him, here and in other locations.

Yaroslav described how the Jews arrived on foot and were forced to undress before being marched to 'the side of a grave' in Rava Ruska.

'Yaroslav brought me in the forest with 50 farmers, very old people who were present at the killings,' Father Desbois said.

'They described one by one what happened. One person said a German arrived alone on a motorcycle. 

'He rode around the village. At the time, everyone wondered why. It turned out, he was planning the site of what would become Rava Ruska's Jewish mass grave.'

On this occasion, some 1,500 Jews were marched to the huge pit, dug earlier by other Jews who had been killed with explosives.

The group seen by Yaroslav were then shot, their bodies layered on top of each other and covered by local youths from the village who had been requisitioned by the Germans.

Their clothes were ransacked for cash and valuables. 

Organised attacks: The pogroms were a part of systematic anti-Semitic violence that included beatings and killings which led to the deaths of 4,000 Jews in Lviv (pictured) - 31 miles from of Rava Ruska.

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Organised attacks: The pogroms were a part of systematic anti-Semitic violence that included beatings and killings which led to the deaths of 4,000 Jews in Lviv (pictured) - 31 miles from of Rava Ruska.

Opening up: Elderly Ukrainians who witnessed the horror of mass killings and public beatings (pictured) are now ending their vow of silence

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Opening up: Elderly Ukrainians who witnessed the horror of mass killings and public beatings (pictured) are now ending their vow of silence

Helpless: A badly-injured Jewish man struggles to stand up after being beaten at a pogrom in Lviv, Ukraine in 1941

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Helpless: A badly-injured Jewish man struggles to stand up after being beaten at a pogrom in Lviv, Ukraine in 1941

Tricked: The Germans claimed that all the Jews of Rawa Ruska (pictured today) would be sent to work camps  but they were instead taken to the forest at Borove and executed

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Tricked: The Germans claimed that all the Jews of Rawa Ruska (pictured today) would be sent to work camps but they were instead taken to the forest at Borove and executed

Chilling past: An elderly witness called Yaroslav showed the priest a site outside the town of Rava Ruska (pictured today) and told him how he witnessed the horror of mass killing as a 13 year old boy in 1942

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Chilling past: An elderly witness called Yaroslav showed the priest a site outside the town of Rava Ruska (pictured today) and told him how he witnessed the horror of mass killing as a 13 year old boy in 1942

After the burial 'the earth moved' from the helpless last struggles for life of those wounded but buried alive in this mass grave.

A week later, blood was still seeping out from this macabre site.

Elderly Olha Havrylivna - aged 12 when she witnessed the chilling atrocity here - remembered: 'We saw arrests, killings, executions.

They brought them to the edge of a pit and shot them. But you could see the pit move, because some of them were still alive

Olha Havrylivna, witnessed killings in 

'They brought them to the edge of a pit and shot them. But you could see the pit move, because some of them were still alive. We were young and it was hard to watch. It was a tragedy, a great tragedy.

'The day we came to see they brought a lot of Jews here. There must have been 60 or 70. We looked on. We didn't go too near, we stayed over there, but we children could still see everything.'

Olha told of how 15 German soldiers stood all around the pit where their captives were standing in groups.

The opened fire on the helpless Jews who dropped back-first into the pits.

Another witness, Gregory Haven, recalled how the Germans had before the killings how they 'ordered all the Jews in the village to wear an armband on their right arm with the Star of David. 

The cloth was white and the star black. The Jews had to give up the milk from their cows'.

Deceased: A group of bloodied Jewish victims lie did after a night of violence at a pogrom in Lviv

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Deceased: A group of bloodied Jewish victims lie did after a night of violence at a pogrom in Lviv

Doomed: The priest's search took him to four sites around Rava Ruska (pictured), close to the Ukrainian border with Poland, where 15,000 Jews were slain

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Doomed: The priest's search took him to four sites around Rava Ruska (pictured), close to the Ukrainian border with Poland, where 15,000 Jews were slain

The Nazis 'began by shooting old people and children, they left people between the ages of 18 and 45 to make them work'. 

'Three kilometres away, they killed them, people fell like flies. I didn't see them but I heard the shots. I saw a young Jew who brought corpses in a cart to the Jewish cemetery. It was during the winter of 1942, there was blood and the ground was red.'

After one of the mass killings, in the evening, he recalled: 'We began to smell an odour and then, as it smelled of death, they forced people who had carts and horses to bring sand there. 

Many people were requisitioned to dig the mass graves, to fill them, to bring the Jews in horse-drawn carts, to bring back their suits, to sell the suits, to put ashes on the blood

Father Patrick Desbois, Catholic priest

'They also put chlorine, that allowed them to lower the level of the pit by one metre, and the blood stopped running'.

Locals went there 'because the Jews had undressed there and people saw the Germans taking the civilian clothes of women and men, they came to see if they could find something - money, rings, gold watches'.

The priest's grandfather, a French political prisoner, went home after his internment during which he survived eating dandelions and grass.

Desbois said: 'He never spoke. He only said that outside the camp was worse than in the camp. I wanted to understand why, and I discovered that 18,000 Jews were shot in this village, Rava Ruska.'

It became clear to him that elderly Ukrainians like Yaroslav, witnesses to this horror, wanted to end their vow of silence on the terrible things they had seen in their youth.

'People who were present at the killings wanted to speak before they die,' he said.

'Many people were requisitioned to dig the mass graves, to fill them, to bring the Jews in horse-drawn carts, to bring back their suits, to sell the suits, to put ashes on the blood. Fifty different jobs.'

Bloody: Blood oozed through the soil at sites of mass graves (pictured), according to accounts assiduously collected by French Catholic priest Father Patrick Desbois

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Bloody: Blood oozed through the soil at sites of mass graves (pictured), according to accounts assiduously collected by French Catholic priest Father Patrick Desbois

Witnesses: The harrowing accounts of those who survived the massacre in Rava Ruska (pictured) have been collected by a French Catholic priest, Father Patrick Desbois

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Witnesses: The harrowing accounts of those who survived the massacre in Rava Ruska (pictured) have been collected by a French Catholic priest, Father Patrick Desbois

Mass extermination: The Nazis used gas chambers to cruelly kill millions in Germany but in Ukraine, they shot Jewish people and buried them nearby

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Mass extermination: The Nazis used gas chambers to cruelly kill millions in Germany but in Ukraine, they shot Jewish people and buried them nearby

Dark history: This pile of bones was discovered in the Ukrainian town of Belzec, around 10 miles away from the site of four mass graves in Rava Ruska

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Dark history: This pile of bones was discovered in the Ukrainian town of Belzec, around 10 miles away from the site of four mass graves in Rava Ruska

He explained: 'Thirteen German private trucking companies came to work in Rava-Ruska.

'The Nazi killers hired these German companies to move the bodies to mass graves. People must understand, Rava Ruska was a huge killing centre: first for the Jews, then for political prisoners, and then for the local population and the Roma. Each person who was killed here was an individual. We cannot forget this.'

Some 32,000 were buried around Rava Ruska and in neighbouring towns like Bakhiv, where for years farmers have dug up human remains - and in so doing found mass graves - as they ploughed the fields.

One veteran Tikhon Leshchuk, now 89, recalled how his father, a priest, hid a Jewish girl in their house throughout Nazi occupation.

'On 27 June 1941, German troops came into Rava Ruska. The solders destroyed the Jewish cemetery and soon made a Jewish ghetto in the town centre. 

'The market square and the Jewish quarters around it became a ghetto. All the Jews from Rava Ruska and the near by villages were brought there,' he said.

His best friend at school - a Jew - suddenly vanished, presumably shot by the Nazis.

'One day when we were in the village my father's friend came. She was a Jew and she brought her 10 year old girl and asked my father to let her stay with us. 

'My father agree and Anna, the girl, hid with us all through the years of German rule. I'm not sure what happened with her mother but Anna survived and later became a school teacher in Rava Ruska.'

A witness from Bakhiv, Temofis Ryzvanuk, then 14, told him how Germans beat the Jews with whips to force them to dig the holes into which they would be buried.

'We were so afraid of the Germans. They had things on their caps, they were terrifying.

'My father's brother said: "Don't be afraid, no one is going to kill you. They're only killing Jews. And they realized that they were going to be killed".

Courageous: One veteran Tikhon Leshchuk (pictured), now 89, recalled how his father, a priest, hid a Jewish girl in their house throughout Nazi occupation

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Courageous: One veteran Tikhon Leshchuk (pictured), now 89, recalled how his father, a priest, hid a Jewish girl in their house throughout Nazi occupation

Memorial: There was also a mass grave at Pechora  (pictured), Ukraine, where many Jews were murdered

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Memorial: There was also a mass grave at Pechora (pictured), Ukraine, where many Jews were murdered

Victim:  Women in Lviv (pictured) were beaten routinely while one survivor from Rava Ruska has told of how a Nazi ordered a woman to be stripped naked, smeared with butter and beaten to death

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Victim:  Women in Lviv (pictured) were beaten routinely while one survivor from Rava Ruska has told of how a Nazi ordered a woman to be stripped naked, smeared with butter and beaten to death

German WW2 soldiers welcomed to war-town Lviv in Ukraine

'They stripped them naked, men and women. When they had killed them, they put them beside each other, head to head, to pile in as many as possible, to save space. The Germans had automatic rifles and when they got close to the pit they shot them.'

Temofis described the bloody execution as a 'production line' that was 'so well organised' that it only took a few minutes for everyone to be killed.

'They had barely got out when they fell and were pushed in and piled together, head to head like herrings. Then the next wagon-load arrived, and then the next,' he said.

They stripped them naked, men and women. When they had killed them, they put them beside each other, head to head, to pile in as many as possible, to save space. The Germans had automatic rifles and when they got close to the pit they shot them 

Temofis Ryzvanuk, witness of mass killing of Jews in Ukraine

Desbois warned: 'A whole part of the genocide has not been declared.

'The challenge is to collect the maximum amount of evidence about the killing of the Jews in these countries and find out about the mass graves.

'Tomorrow the witnesses will disappear and the deniers will overreact, saying that the Jews falsified the story.

'I always say, the Holocaust was not a tsunami. It was a crime. And when there's a crime you have evidence. It's very easy to find evidence in these villages.'

In all, more one million Ukrainian Jews were murdered by Hitler's troops, and Father Desbois and his humanitarian organisation Yahad, in Unum, are seeking to identify the sites and erect memorials but also to help relatives track where their ancestors were slain, and now lie buried.

'Twenty five years ago, I learned that in Rava Ruska there was a camp where 25,000 Soviet prisoners were killed by the Germans,' he said in this village, once a thriving town with 42 per cent of its population Jewish.

'There was a memorial for the Soviet prisoners. But there were no memorials for the mass graves of the Jews.'

He had now ensured there is a memorial here - erected in May this year - and that the graves, and the memory of what happened are protected. 

Selfless task: Father Desbois (pictured) is seeking to identify the sites of mass graves and erect memorials but also to help relatives track where their ancestors were slain

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Selfless task: Father Desbois (pictured) is seeking to identify the sites of mass graves and erect memorials but also to help relatives track where their ancestors were slain

Obligation: 'We will come back to the last grave where they killed the Jews... We have a duty to victims because each and every one of them had a name,' Father Desbois told MailOnline

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Obligation: 'We will come back to the last grave where they killed the Jews... We have a duty to victims because each and every one of them had a name,' Father Desbois told MailOnline

Inhumane: Backed by their new Nazi occupiers, Ukrainian mobs would rip women's clothes off in the streets during organised riots known as Pogroms

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Inhumane: Backed by their new Nazi occupiers, Ukrainian mobs would rip women's clothes off in the streets during organised riots known as Pogroms

But it was his experience in Rava Ruska - which was also on the main railway line to the death camp of Belzec in Nazi-occupied Poland where up to 600,000 were exterminated in gas chambers - that led him to expand his search across the country.

'We want to show that we will come back.' he said.

'We will come back to the last grave where they killed the Jews... We have a duty to victims because each and every one of them had a name.'

He has estimated that there may be another 6,000 sites still to find, reported Deutsche Welle.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, he heard from Nikola Kristitch, who was aged eight in 1942, when he saw a vision of hell that haunted him for the rest of his life.

He was hiding in the trees when he saw dead children being thrown by hand into a pit - a mass grave.

Adults 'were completely naked and walked with the Rabbi at their head. He gave a sermon, to all those who were already there. And the cars kept coming, there were more and more people and they went into the pit in rows. They all lay down like herrings.

'They lay down and there was one sub-machine gun and two Germans, they had the skull and crossbones on their caps. They fired a burst at the people lying there, and then more went in and another burst.

'They kept shooting them until nightfall. And we watched. Then the Germans went back again to get the villagers to cover the grave. People hid to escape doing it. And us kids, we hid in the bushes, out of curiosity, to see.

'That night, the people covered it in, but the ground was still moving, for another two days. The ground heaved. I remembered one of the girls, a young girl. Her panties were around her ankles.

Remembrance: The location of a mass grave in Pikov (pictured), Ukraine, was turned into a memorial after the war

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Remembrance: The location of a mass grave in Pikov (pictured), Ukraine, was turned into a memorial after the war

Death machine: A map of the extermination camp in Belzec, around 17km away from Rava-Ruska

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Death machine: A map of the extermination camp in Belzec, around 17km away from Rava-Ruska

'A German fired at her and her hair caught fire. She screamed and he took an automatic rifle, got into the grave and fired.

'The bullet ricocheted off his knee and he bled everywhere. He bandaged his knee, he was half undressed and then he emptied his round. He even killed Jews who still had their clothes on, he couldn't wait he was so crazed with rage. He fired at everybody, he was crazy.'

A sign of what was to come under the Germans was seen in the Lviv Pogrom of June 1941 immediately after the Nazi entered the city after pushing out the Red Army.

A Ukrainian mob, eagerly backed by the new occupiers, stripped and beat Jewish women in the streets who were subjected to public humiliation.

This was part of an orgy of anti-Semitic violence that included beatings and killings which led to the deaths of 4,000 Jews in Lviv (also known as Lvov), which is 31 miles south-east of Rava Ruska.

'The topic of the Holocaust was almost banned in Soviet times,' Mikhail Tyaglyy, historian of the Ukrainian Centre of Holocaust Study, told MailOnline.

For modern Ukraine the subject is difficult, too, because it means admitting a role for nationalists in colluding the Nazis, in part because some preferred a German occupation to Stalin's as the lesser of two evils.

Soviet history neglected the anti-Semitic aspect of the Jewish killings, lumping these deaths together with total losses in the USSR.

Death: Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust in Europe, according to the co-president of Association of Jewish Organisations and Societies in Ukraine

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Death: Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust in Europe, according to the co-president of Association of Jewish Organisations and Societies in Ukraine

Catalysts: 'The Nazis did their best to inspire pogroms (pictured) everywhere they came,' a historian at the Ukrainian Centre of Holocaust Study told MailOnline

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Catalysts: 'The Nazis did their best to inspire pogroms (pictured) everywhere they came,' a historian at the Ukrainian Centre of Holocaust Study told MailOnline

Widespread: Iosif Zisels, co-president of Association of Jewish Organisations and Societies in Ukraine, said that one in four Jews killed during the Holocaust were Ukrainian Jews (pictured)

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Widespread: Iosif Zisels, co-president of Association of Jewish Organisations and Societies in Ukraine, said that one in four Jews killed during the Holocaust were Ukrainian Jews (pictured)

Inhumane: A woman is cruelly stripped naked during a pogrom, where large numbers of people would gather to attack Jewish people and their shops

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Inhumane: A woman is cruelly stripped naked during a pogrom, where large numbers of people would gather to attack Jewish people and their shops

Soviet history has largely neglected the anti-Semitic aspect of the Jewish killings, lumping these deaths together with total losses in the USSR.

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Soviet history has largely neglected the anti-Semitic aspect of the Jewish killings, lumping these deaths together with total losses in the USSR.

Death: By 1945, some three million non-Jewish Ukrainians had been murdered by the Germans, in addition to the Holocaust

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Death: By 1945, some three million non-Jewish Ukrainians had been murdered by the Germans, in addition to the Holocaust

'We are touching the topic of Ukrainian nationalism here and it is a complicated matter. The situation in Ukraine was not so different to what was going on in other Soviet regions which were occupied by Nazis - everywhere they relied on local nationalists, who often blamed Jews for supporting the "Moscow-Bolshevik regime", as they said at the time.

'Such attitude easily inspired pogroms as we had in Western Ukraine.

'The Nazis did their best to inspire pogroms everywhere they came. But pogroms is one thing, and systematic extermination of the Jewish population which was organised purely by the German Nazis is another.

'It is true that radical nationalists helped Nazis in guarding and performed other tasks. But Nazis did not trust mass killing of Jews to locals.'

Tyaglyy added: 'It is vital for all Ukrainians to keep memories of what happened in Ukraine, to come back to it, because this experience can teach us many important lessons needed nowadays. '

He said: 'There may be differences in calculating the number of Jewish population in Ukraine before the war, it is about including or not including the Eastern regions of Poland after Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, but in general we can say that at least a half - if not more - of all Ukrainian Jews were killed in Holocaust at our territory.'

Iosif Zisels, co-president of Association of Jewish Organisations and Societies in Ukraine, said that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust in Europe.

'Of these, 1.5million to 1.6million were Ukrainian Jews,' he said, 'In other words, one in four were Ukrainian Jews.'

He added: 'There are certain stereotypes about participation of Ukrainian nationalists in pogroms in the early war years which were planted by Soviet history.

Killers: Although some 'radical nationalists' helped the Nazis, they did most of the killing of local Jews in Ukraine (pictured) themselves

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Killers: Although some 'radical nationalists' helped the Nazis, they did most of the killing of local Jews in Ukraine (pictured) themselves

Aftermath: Some historians claim that 5,000 Jews died as a result of these pogroms in Lviv

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Aftermath: Some historians claim that 5,000 Jews died as a result of these pogroms in Lviv

Brutal: They also claim that in addition to these 5,000 killed, another 3,000 people who were mostly Jews were executed in the municipal stadium by the Germans

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Brutal: They also claim that in addition to these 5,000 killed, another 3,000 people who were mostly Jews were executed in the municipal stadium by the Germans

Extinguished: Following the 1941 pogroms, the harsh conditions in Lviv (pictured) and the deportations of Jews to concentration camps all but eradicated the local Jewish population

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Extinguished: Following the 1941 pogroms, the harsh conditions in Lviv (pictured) and the deportations of Jews to concentration camps all but eradicated the local Jewish population

'It is true that the local population did cooperate with German Nazis in the occupied territories but the majority of them were ethnic Russian.

'Russia makes a point about Ukrainian nationalists because it is keen to divert suspicion from itself.'

The notion of Ukrainian nationalists colluding with the Nazis was a vivid horror played on by Soviet propaganda, and now seized on again by the Russian authorities in branding 'fascist' those who currently want to be outside Moscow's sphere of control.

Hitler had planned to eradicate over half of Ukraine's population so that the country's rich farmland could be repopulated with Germans in their so-called quest for Lebensraum.

By 1945, some three million non-Jewish Ukrainians had been murdered by the Germans in addition to those killed in the Holocaust.

The priest is unapologetic over his campaign in Ukraine.

'Why do we come back to Ukraine?' he asked. 'Because one day we will have to go back to Iraq, because one day we will have to go back to the last mass grave in Darfur.'

Unless the lesson is learned from the Holocaust 'tomorrow will be the same story'.

Yahad's executive director Marco Gonzalez warned: 'Unfortunately, this form of genocide, the 'Holocaust by Bullets', is the model for mass killings today.

'The lessons to be learned are practical and the details need to be exposed for all to see and understand.'

Historian Mikhail Tyaglyy said the truth about the Holocaust in Ukraine must be taught to young people.

'It is important to all times and all generations. Radical extremism and anti-Smitism still exists, and this is why it must be taught.

'If we look at modern German society, we can hardly see any signs of anti-Semitism and xenophobia there, but it became possible because of long term wise educational, cultural and historical policies of the German state within the last decades. '

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

'I met someone whose family gave me life' - 72 years on, Holocaust survivor thanks the son of the Dutch hero who bought her freedom when she was just a baby by bribing an SS guard

  • Paulette Cooper, 73, was taken to Mechelen transit camp in June 1943
  • Her father's best friend secured her and her sister's release with a bribe
  • Paulette was adopted and has lived in America since August 28, 1948
  • Received an email four years ago that explained her family past
  • Now has met for the first time the son of the Dutchman who saved her
  • Cried and hugged Peter de Hoo, whose father paid $62,000 to an SS man

The last time Paulette Cooper met a member of the de Hoo family, she was 11 months old - and was being saved from the horrors of the Holocaust.

That was more than 70 years ago, when at the height of Hitler's mass murder of Europe's Jews, a small act of heroism was committed by Sijbren de Hoo, a well-connected Dutchman.

De Hoo bribed a Nazi guard to save two Jewish children who had already been orphaned by the Nazis.

Now, more than 70 years later, she has met the son of the man who saved her to thank him at an emotional meeting witnessed by Daily Mail Online.

Scroll down for video

Peter de Hoo's father saved Paulette Cooper's life with a well-timed bribe in July 1943. On Saturday, the pair met for the first time (pictured above)

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Peter de Hoo's father saved Paulette Cooper's life with a well-timed bribe in July 1943. On Saturday, the pair met for the first time (pictured above)

Paulette was just 11 months old when Peter's father Sijbren de Hoo, pictured (above) with an unknown member of his family, saved her and her sister Suzy

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Paulette was just 11 months old when Peter's father Sijbren de Hoo, pictured (above) with an unknown member of his family, saved her and her sister Suzy

The Dossin Barracks at the Mechelen transit camp, which opened in 1942. Above, dozens of families and their luggage are left in a square at the camp

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The Dossin Barracks at the Mechelen transit camp, which opened in 1942. Above, dozens of families and their luggage are left in a square at the camp

It is the end of an extraordinary journey which has taken Paulette from being on the brink of death in wartime Belgium, to a successful life in America as a journalist and author.

The journey began on July 31 1943. Paula Bucholc was 11 months old and had already lost both her parents.

The first to die had been her father, Chaim Bucholc, who was led into the gas chambers at Auschwitz on September 10, 1942.

He was aged 38 and Paula - who became known as Paulette - had been born just a month earlier. Her elder sister, Sarah - who would come to be known as Suzy - was just one.

Her mother Ruchla went into hiding after Chaim disappeared. She was arrested on the streets of Antwerp during a desperate attempt to get food for her two starving children and was taken to a holding camp in Mechelen.

Records show Ruchla was sent to Auschwitz to be gassed as prisoner 950 on October 24, 1942. She was 31.

What happened next was to save Paulette and Suzy's lives. The two were too young to know it, but one of their father's friends was trying to free them.

De Hoo had become a friend of Bucholc, their father, when he left Poland in the 1920s and spent time in Antwerp, the Belgian port city on the border with The Netherlands. Antwerp is in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, meaning the two had a common language.

The Polish man was a leather worker, and de Hoo was to use his services when the Dutchman was involved in an expedition to the Arctic Circle.

De Hoo paid 110,000 Dutch Guilders (around £40,000 in today's currency) to a corrupt Nazi guard called Philipp Schmitt, pictured (above) playing with his dog Lump

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De Hoo paid 110,000 Dutch Guilders (around £40,000 in today's currency) to a corrupt Nazi guard called Philipp Schmitt, pictured (above) playing with his dog Lump

Suzy and Paulette, pictured (above) holding hands, were taken to an orphanage in Belgium where Paulette (right) became malnourished and unhappy, longing for her parents

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Suzy and Paulette, pictured (above) holding hands, were taken to an orphanage in Belgium where Paulette (right) became malnourished and unhappy, longing for her parents

Paulette (4th right, middle row) and Suzy (6th right, top row) are pictured with dozens of other children at an orphanage in Belgium around 1946

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Paulette (4th right, middle row) and Suzy (6th right, top row) are pictured with dozens of other children at an orphanage in Belgium around 1946

They were part of the same circle of friends throughout the 1930s, but in 1939 both their countries were pitched into the horrors of war and on 10 May 1940, the Nazis successfully invaded both.

Jews in both countries became subject to the Nazis' anti-Semitic regime, and as the war years went on, its plans for the 'Final Solution' - the Holocaust.

In the case of the Bucholcs, both Polish Jews, it meant the murder first of Chaim, and then of Ruchla.

She smuggled a letter out of the transit camp in Mechelen, just south of Antwerp, where thousands of Belgian Jews were held before being sent east to almost certain death in Auschwitz and other Nazi camps.

The letter, to a friend, asked them to 'play and be happy with the children', and somehow, for a few months the two children remained hidden and looked after by friends.

But it was only a matter of time; in June 1943 they were found, and on 18 June taken to the same transit camp where their mother had been held.

It was there that de Hoo came to their assistance.

With a friend, he organized for its corrupt commandant, SS Sturmbannf├╝hrer Philipp Schmitt, to be paid 110,00 Dutch Gilders - a sum probably equivalent to around $62,000 in today's values - in return for the freedom of his friend's daughters.

De Hoo was at the time a senior official in the Dutch occupied government's ministry of economic affairs. He used an inheritance to pay for most of the bribe.

Paulette was eventually moved to the USA on August 28, 1948. She is pictured (above) arriving in New York

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Paulette was eventually moved to the USA on August 28, 1948. She is pictured (above) arriving in New York

 

She was adopted by Stella Toepfer and Ted Cooper, pictured working as a X-ray technician during the war Father and daughter are pictured together at the beach  

 

She was adopted by Stella Toepfer and Ted Cooper, pictured (left) working as an X-ray technician during the war and (right) with Paulette

Ted and Stella lived on Manhattan's Upper West Side when they adopted Paulette in 1948. The family are pictured together (above) in their living room

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Ted and Stella lived on Manhattan's Upper West Side when they adopted Paulette in 1948. The family are pictured together (above) in their living room

Paulette has had a successful career as an author and journalist. In 1970, she became the first female stowaway (pictured on the trip) in modern cruising as part of a feature for a national newspaper

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Paulette has had a successful career as an author and journalist. In 1970, she became the first female stowaway (pictured on the trip) in modern cruising as part of a feature for a national newspaper

It worked: just days before the girls were to die, they were taken from the camp, and put in the first of a series of orphanages.

The transport of cattle trucks they were supposed to be on left at the end of July and went to Auschwitz - meaning that given their ages, they escaped certain death by the narrowest of margins.

After the young girls' escape, they were taken to an orphanage in Belgium where Paulette became malnourished and unhappy, longing for her parents.

'They didn't tell us our parents were killed,' she says. 'They told us that our parents would come and get us one day.

'I remember being sat under a tree on visiting day so far apart from everybody else. I just cried and cried because I didn't understand why I didn't have parents.'

After five years at four different orphanages, with Paulette's only possession being a ball on a piece of string, she was adopted by an American couple. Stella Toepfer and Ted Cooper could not have children due to fertility problems and Paulette was eventually moved to the USA on August 28, 1948.

Her final night in Belgium was spent at her aunt's, where she got to see her sister Suzy - who now works in New York as a saleswoman - for what would be the last time in 13 years.

'My aunt was too poor to take us both so she told me and Suzy: "Kiss each other goodbye girls because you'll never see each other again",' she recalls.

When Paulette boarded the plane to New York, she was six years old and weighed just 36 pounds. She could only speak French and her memories of the eight-hour flight are limited, although she does vividly remember throwing up on a woman and being taught how to say 'I love you' in English.

The move was the start of many happy years, although Paulette admits she struggled to come to terms with not understanding her past.

She married for the first time in 1988 at age 45. Her husband Paul Noble (above with Paulette) is a former television producer

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She married for the first time in 1988 at age 45. Her husband Paul Noble (above with Paulette) is a former television producer

Her sister Suzy (centre) moved to America later in life and is now a successful saleswoman in New York

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Her sister Suzy (centre) moved to America later in life and is now a successful saleswoman in New York

'We lived in a lovely home,' she says. 'My parents took care of my education and by the end of my first year there I was at the top of the class in English.

'Not only did I get to go to college, I got a Masters. Even when I dropped out in the last year of my PhD they took care of that.

'I was very lucky but I had mixed feelings. I kind of didn't want to know and did want to know [about my past].'

Now, however, she has not just discovered the truth about her past - but been able to meet the son of the man who saved her life.

Peter de Hoo contacted Paulette in 2011 after she tried to find out about her past.

Speaking exclusively to Daily Mail Online, she says: 'The first time I got an email from Peter was on Thanksgiving in 2011. The minute I read it we connected. I don't have much from my past but here's somebody who was saying he knew about it - I just had to know him.'

They met at the weekend, in a hotel in central London.

Peter, 64, landed in the country less than 24 hours earlier, leaving his wife Jeanet, 54, with their three adopted children in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands.

Paulette, had traveled from Palm Beach, Florida, with her husband Paul Noble, a 79-year-old former television producer. They spent eight days aboard the Queen Mary liner to get to London.

This is the moment Peter and Paulette met for the first time at the DoubleTree Hilton Hotel in Westminster, central London 

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This is the moment Peter and Paulette met for the first time at the DoubleTree Hilton Hotel in Westminster, central London

The pair had been emailing for four years before Saturday's meeting, with both becoming emotional at first sight of the other

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The pair had been emailing for four years before Saturday's meeting, with both becoming emotional at first sight of the other

At their first meeting, Paulette and Peter shared pictures and chatted animatedly about their families

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At their first meeting, Paulette and Peter shared pictures and chatted animatedly about their families

BELGIUM AND THE HOLOCAUST

Immediately after the occupation of Belgium in 1940, the Germans instituted anti-Jewish laws and ordinances.

They restricted the civil rights of Jews, confiscated their property and businesses, banned them from certain professions, and in 1942 required Jews to wear a yellow Star of David.

Belgian Jews were also rounded up for forced labor.

They worked primarily in the construction of military fortifications in northern France, and also in construction projects, clothing and armaments factories, and stone quarries in Belgium.

Under the German occupation, between 65,000 and 70,000 Jews lived in Belgium, primarily in Antwerp and Brussels.

The overwhelming majority of them were foreign and stateless Jews, mostly from Poland. They had found refuge in Belgium after World War I.

There was considerable support in Belgium for resistance to the German occupation.

Over 25,000 Jews avoided deportation by hiding from the German authorities. The Belgian civilian administration refused to cooperate in the deportations.

The German military police carried out the deportations. Between 1942 and 1944, the Germans deported nearly 25,000 Jews from Belgium to the Auschwitz extermination camp.

Most were murdered there. The Breendonk and Mechelen camps served as collection centers for the deportations. Fewer than 2,000 deportees survived the Holocaust.

Allied forces liberated Belgium in September 1944.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

They immediately began to discuss their past. Peter, speaking in stilted English, started by telling the story of Paulette's rescue and said his father used money he inherited to pay the bribe that secured her release.

'[My father] didn't hang on to money or possessions,' he said. 'His intention was not to have all the money but to use it to do something that must be done.

'He was acting with confidence. My parents had a very unusual life - what he did does not surprise me.'

Paulette, an accomplished author who has already had 22 books published, said she cannot remember being sent to Mechelen but she knows that Peter's father's gamble prevented certain death.

'I would not have even survived the transport because they were taking six days to get to Auschwitz,' she says. 'The Germans didn't want people to know what these trains were about.

'The cattle cars had two buckets - one for the bathroom and one for water. Most people didn't survive and I didn't have a mother and a father to look out for me.'

The meeting came after Peter saw an article which Paulette had written about her long legal battles with Scientology, which began when she first wrote about the controversial religion in the early 1970s.

She was sued 19 times by the institution, including twice in England, and, although the Church never won, the harassment drove her to consider committing suicide on her 31st birthday.

'During the nightmare of the Scientologists, my legal fees were horrendous and my [adoptive] parents paid that,' she says. 'It was almost $28,000. My father was my savior.'

Despite her American mother being aware Paulette had been saved due to a bribe it wasn't until Peter contacted her - after seeing an article about the Scientology scandal in a foreign newspaper - that the gaps began to be filled.

'He contacted me less than 24 hours after an article about my battle with Scientology was released in the Netherlands,' Paulette said.

'It's absolutely amazing he read that story. If he hadn't read it I would be forever in the dark - I knew a few little snippets about my life but I didn't know the narrative.'

The information Peter offered also led to mixed emotions and there are some details the author is still struggling to cope with. Her eyes fill with tears every time she mentions her father.

'I learned a lot of unhappy details. I think if I had learned them the first time around they would have been just too much for me,' she says.

Paulette later learned her father was a Polish leather worker, who had made this book cover for a friend. It is now one of the author's most treasured possessions 

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Paulette later learned her father was a Polish leather worker, who had made this book cover for a friend. It is now one of the author's most treasured possessions

Understandably the information Peter offered also led to mixed emotions and there are some details Paulette, pictured (above) talking about her father, is still struggling to cope with

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Understandably the information Peter offered also led to mixed emotions and there are some details Paulette, pictured (above) talking about her father, is still struggling to cope with

Paul (left) accepts that his wife (centre) will always be haunted in some way about her past - but he hopes that today's meeting with Peter (right) will help

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Paul (left) accepts that his wife (centre) will always be haunted in some way about her past - but he hopes that today's meeting with Peter (right) will help

'To know that your father was killed a few days before you were born is very, very painful.

'It broke my heart to know my father never saw me, never knew who I was. He never knew that I was going to grow up to be a successful writer.'

Paulette, the author of 22 books, including her 1971 book The Scandal of Scientology, suffered depression as she struggled to come to terms with her background of surviving the Holocaust.

'Even later on, I had a problem with feeling guilty because I was told that my mother died because she had to leave the house because I was a newborn,' . I had this guilt that I was responsible for my mother's death.'

At one point, her depression got so bad that she gave up the piano, which she had started to learn after moving to America.

‘Every time I started to play I would think I was playing it for my dead parents,’ she says. ‘There was one piece that made me think of them and I couldn't get over it so I quit.'

It wasn’t until Paulette reached her 40s that she began to come to terms with some of the facts. This delay had a clear impact on the timeline of her life and she married for the first time in 1988 aged 45.

She says: 'I was so terrified always of not only losing my parents but losing people.

‘I really couldn't form attachments because I would start to see somebody and they would maybe disappear. I was too afraid.

‘Eventually I straightened out and when I was 45 I bumped into Paul at a party. By then my head was on right and we started to date.'

The couple have no children ('we were too late', Paulette explains) but they are the proud owners of Polo and Peekaboo - two Shih Tzus.

Paul, a five-time Emmy award winning producer who worked on shows including Midday Live and Dr Ruth, accepts that his wife will always be haunted in some way about her past - but he said he hoped that meeting the son of the man who saved her would help.

The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, by Tony Ortega, is out now

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The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, by Tony Ortega, is out now

'When I first met her in 1968 she was talking about doing a dissertation in early childhood memories,' he said.

'She was really looking back to her past and there were always all of these unanswered questions. Now, as a result of Peter reading the article, it's all been clarified.'

When she first got in touch with the de Hoo family, they passed on to her a leather book cover which her father had worked on, and which was still in their family after surviving the war.

It has her father's initials on it, and offers some tangible sense of continuity with parents she never knew and a father she never met.

Paulette said she was glad to meet someone who could answer some of her questions about her past - and who she could thank for his father's act of courage.

'I spent 11 hours today with Peter and we never ran out of conversation,' she said.

'He is terrific and I'm so glad I got the opportunity to meet someone whose family gave me my life,' she writes. 'What a day.'

 

The return of the Neo-Nazis: Notorious Holocaust denier David Irving tells secret rally 'the RAF are war criminals'

  • Neo Nazis held secret meeting in four-star hotel in South Kensington
  • Event attracted 120 Right-wing sympathisers, including women and teens
  • ‘Best friend’ of Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess, was also a guest speaker

Far right: Convicted Holocaust denier David Irving addressed fascist sympathisers and neo Nazis at a secret meeting in London yesterday

Far right: Convicted Holocaust denier David Irving addressed fascist sympathisers and neo Nazis at a secret meeting in London yesterday

Convicted Holocaust denier David Irving addressed fascist sympathisers and neo Nazis at a secret meeting in London yesterday.

Irving, a historian who famously lost a libel case after denying the existence of Nazi gas chambers, was the star speaker at an event that attracted an audience of 120 Right-wing sympathisers, including women and teenagers.

Behind closed doors at a four-star hotel in South Kensington, the discredited author gave a speech condemning the Second World War Allied bombing campaign over Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe as ‘a war crime’.

Irving’s contentious speech was titled: ‘Saturation Bombing in World War II – who is to blame?’

An invitation to the event, obtained by The Mail on Sunday, states: ‘David Irving is the world’s MOST respected historian, he’s the world’s TOP expert on World War II.’

But he was widely discredited after his high-profile libel trial and being sentenced to three years imprisonment by an Austrian court in 2006 for denying the Holocaust.

The secret meeting will add to concerns that far-Right groups are trying to garner support in London and Europe amid a rise in austerity and Islamic terrorism.

It comes just three months after The Mail on Sunday exposed a similar meeting of far-Right figures from around the world, organised by the same group, who call themselves the London Forum.

Anti-fascist campaigner Gerry Gable condemned Irving’s appearance at the latest in a ‘growing series of closed international far-Right extremist conferences’.

Former Spandau prison worker Abdallah Melaouhi, self-described ‘best friend’ of Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess, was also a speaker at yesterday’s event.

Also present was Arkadiusz Rzepinski, leader of the Polish nationalist party, NOP, in England.

The invitation told those wishing to attend the meeting to call a mobile number at 8am yesterday. Those who rang were told to meet at South Kensington Tube station at 11am, where they were greeted by retired teacher and known fascist supporter Michael Woodbridge.

They were then led to the four-star Rembrandt Hotel, opposite the Victoria and Albert museum.

Mockery: Extremist Michael Woodbridge spotted at rally yesterday wearing an RAF jacket

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Mockery: Extremist Michael Woodbridge spotted at rally yesterday wearing an RAF jacket

Meeting: One man and woman who attended the secret meeting in London which had notorious Holocaust denier David Irving speaking

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Meeting: One man and woman who attended the secret meeting in London which had notorious Holocaust denier David Irving speaking

Attendees filed into the St James function room, which the group had booked out in a different name, from 11.30am – some wearing tweed and blazers, others in khaki trousers and black T-shirts with the logo of fascists groups including the far-Right Greek group Golden Dawn.

Among the paying attendees were British National Party members and Polish nationalist skinheads wearing camouflage – complete with boots and chains – who filed through the lobby past bemused hotel guests. About 10 women attended and one man brought his teenage daughter.

It is depressing that such a meeting should take place in the 21st Century

Historian and broadcaster Andrew Roberts 

In 1996, Irving sued Professor Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin books for defamation after being called a Holocaust denier. Irving lost the very high-profile case, which cost him a reported £2 million.

At the trial the judge said Irving had deliberately misinterpreted and distorted facts. The judge said: ‘It is my conclusion that no objective, fair-minded historian would have serious cause to doubt that there were gas chambers at Auschwitz and that they were operated on a substantial scale to kill hundreds of thousands of Jews.’

In parts of Europe Holocaust denial is a criminal offence and in 2006, an Austrian court sentenced Irving to three years in prison after he made speeches denying the Nazis used gas chambers. He later said he had revised some of his views.

The respected historian and broadcaster Andrew Roberts said: ‘It is depressing that such a meeting should take place in the 21st Century. The idea of treating David Irving as a historian at all is absurd.

The extremist Michael Woodbridge, pictured top wearing an RAF uniform, with Blackshirt insignia (ringed) at a meeting in London three months ago

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The extremist Michael Woodbridge, pictured top wearing an RAF uniform, with Blackshirt insignia (ringed) at a meeting in London three months ago

‘He doesn’t have the right to call himself that. Historians think of him as a Nazi propagandist and they have the backing of the High Court.’

Speaking in German, with translation provided by Irving, Melaouhi told the crowd about his time working as a prison nurse. He attended to Hess between 1982 and 1987 when Hess was held prisoner in Spandau, Germany, for war crimes.

Hess, Hitler’s deputy who during the Second World War was held prisoner after his plane crashed in Scotland in 1941, hanged himself in 1987. Melaouhi claimed Hess was murdered and released a book about him, describing him as ‘a man of great vision, intelligence and compassion’.

In April, we exposed a similar meeting of the London Forum where the star speaker was Spanish self-confessed Nazi Pedro Varela.

He was arrested in Austria for praising Hitler in 1992 and declared to a baying crowd in Madrid on the centenary of the Fuhrer’s birthday: ‘There were never any gas chambers in Auschwitz.’

Also present was America’s leading peddler of revisionism, Mark Weber, 63, director of the right-wing Institute for Historical Review.

Gerry Gable of anti-fascist magazine Searchlight said: ‘This conference is another piece of evidence of a growing series of closed international far-right extremist Conferences.

‘The core movers range from elderly Holocaust deniers to well-educated men and women who are being trained in ideologies of hate and being made ready for potential acts of terrorism.’

 

Abandoned guns, forgotten munitions carts and peeling paint: Inside the eerie military shelters in Poland where children were forced to dig tunnels to help the Nazi military machine

  • The vast network of 72-year-old bunkers known as Project Riese is located in the Sowie Mountains in Lower Silesia
  • The purpose of the tunnels remains shrouded in mystery to this day, prompting countless conspiracy theories
  • Thousands of prisoners of war - including children as young as 10 - were worked to death constructing the tunnels
  • Bunkers were abandoned before the end of the Second World War and files relating to their construction destroyed

These incredible images show a series of mysterious underground tunnels constructed by the Nazis in Poland during the Second World War.

The vast network of tunnels and underground bunkers is located in the Sowie Mountains in Lower Silesia and forms the so-called Project Riese - a top secret operation, the purpose of which is shrouded in ambiguity to this day.

Thousands of prisoners of war - including children as young as 10 - were worked to death constructing the tunnels, with many of them surviving little more than a few months as the Nazi officers forced them to work them 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Bunkers: The vast network of tunnels and underground bunkers is located in the Sowie Mountains in Lower Silesia and forms the so-called Project Riese - a top secret Nazi construction operation in Poland. Pictured is a large hall area inside complex Rzeczka

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Bunkers: The vast network of tunnels and underground bunkers is located in the Sowie Mountains in Lower Silesia and forms the so-called Project Riese - a top secret Nazi construction operation in Poland. Pictured is a large hall area inside complex Rzeczka

Abandoned: The primitive camouflage paint designed to conceal the entrances to the bunkers still remains remarkably vivid, although it has peeled in places - the only indicator that the design is more than 70 years old

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Abandoned: The primitive camouflage paint designed to conceal the entrances to the bunkers still remains remarkably vivid, although it has peeled in places - the only indicator that the design is more than 70 years old

 

 

Underground: An abandoned gun is seen at an inner guard post for a German soldier within the Rzeczka underground complex. The name of the tunnel building project, Riese, is an indicator of exactly how large the construction operation was. In German the word means 'giant'

An exterior building is seen above the Fly Trap complex in southern Poland. Project Riese is made up of seven vast but unfinished tunnels

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An exterior building is seen above the Fly Trap complex in southern Poland. Project Riese is made up of seven vast but unfinished tunnels

72 years after their construction began, the purpose of the seven vast but unfinished tunnels that make up Project Riese remains unknown.

Some speculate that the tunnels were designed as part of Adolf Hitler's vast underground bunker system, where he could maintain communications with his generals above ground without taking the risk of being killed in Allied bombing raids.

Others believe the chambers were intended to be used as a way to covertly move troops and military equipment.

Whatever their original purpose, the tunnels are now a museum showing the harrowing, often fatal, levels of work involved in their construction.

Although a handful of health and safety features have been added to the tunnels, they otherwise remain preserved exactly as they were when the Nazis abandoned them in order to defend more important bunkers over the border in Germany as the Allied armies advanced towards the end of the War.

The primitive camouflage paint designed to conceal the entrances to the bunkers still remains remarkably vivid, although it has peeled in places - the only indicator that the design is more than 70 years old.

Take a tour of the abandoned Nazi military shelters in Poland

 

A reinforced area is seen deep in the Osowka underground complex. The tunnel network stretches 1700 metres into the hillside

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A reinforced area is seen deep in the Osowka underground complex. The tunnel network stretches 1700 metres into the hillside

A large hall area still contains the track that would have been used during the construction of Project Riese's underground complexes

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A large hall area still contains the track that would have been used during the construction of Project Riese's underground complexes

 

 

Thousands of prisoners of war - including children as young as 10 - were worked to death constructing the tunnels, with many of them surviving little more than a few months as the Nazi officers forced them to work them 24 hours a day, seven days a week

Used by the prisoners: A rusty old winch is seen in the uncompleted Wlodarz complex, part of the mysterious Project Riese

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Used by the prisoners: A rusty old winch is seen in the uncompleted Wlodarz complex, part of the mysterious Project Riese

Michael Scott, 31, who lives in Birmingham, took photographs of the tunnels on a trip to Poland to visit Project Riese between 16-20 October 2014.

'My images may not show the scale of the networks. It was hard to get a photo of everything in a short space of time, there are many tunnel branches that went off into the distant darkness, seemed to go on for ever,' he said.

'For the time frame it was an amazing feat for the progress but at a truly horrific human cost,' he added.

There were seven underground complexes situated around the Sowie Mountains including: Wlodarz, Osowka, Sokolec, Sobon, Rzeczka, Jugowice and Hitler's tunnel complex under the castle of Ksiaz in Walbrzych.

Pictured in the unnerving images, were the complexes Wlodarz, Osowka, Rzeczka and the Fly Trap, where some of the top scientists at the time worked to generate power from here, but were then later killed and buried in a nearby area.

72 years after their construction began, the purpose of the seven vast but unfinished tunnels that make up Project Riese remains unknown

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72 years after their construction began, the purpose of the seven vast but unfinished tunnels that make up Project Riese remains unknown

Entrance: There were seven underground complexes situated around the Sowie Mountains including: Wlodarz, Osowka, Sokolec, Sobon, Rzeczka, Jugowice and Hitler's tunnel complex under the castle of Ksiaz in Walbrzych

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Entrance: There were seven underground complexes situated around the Sowie Mountains including: Wlodarz, Osowka, Sokolec, Sobon, Rzeczka, Jugowice and Hitler's tunnel complex under the castle of Ksiaz in Walbrzych

An abandoned munitions cart is seen on the primitive railway track leading into a tunnel. Child POWs were used to push the carts

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An abandoned munitions cart is seen on the primitive railway track leading into a tunnel. Child POWs were used to push the carts

This structure is known as the Fly Trap. One theory for its purpose is that it was used to generate an anti-gravity state

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This structure is known as the Fly Trap. One theory for its purpose is that it was used to generate an anti-gravity state

Children as young as 10 years old were put to work hauling the mining carts with the spoil out of the tunnel systems, as the adults dug out the tunnels to make room for the construction.

The 24-hour-a-day work and filthy, unhygienic conditions ensured that many of the prisoners of war involved in their construction tragically lost their lives to exhaustion or illness.

The name of the tunnel building project, Riese, is an indicator of exactly how large the construction operation was. In German the word means 'giant'.

As the Allied troops closed in on the embattled Nazis towards the end of the Second World War, the depraved German commanders hurriedly destroyed all records relating to Project Riese.

Writing their memoirs after the war, several top Nazi officials  - including Armaments Minister Albert Speer and general staff officer Walter Warlimont - claimed that the purpose of the tunnels were as a secret headquarters for Adolf Hitler.

Researchers have cast doubt on these claims, however, suggesting the design of the tunnels rules them out as a base for Hitler.

This has led to countless conspiracy theories over the real purpose of Project Riese since the tunnels' discovery, ranging from it being an atomic bomb research centre, to a design lab for prototype time machines or anti-gravity devices.

Michael Scott, 31, (pictured) took photographs of the tunnels on a trip to Poland to visit Project Riese between 16-20 October 2014

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Michael Scott, 31, (pictured) took photographs of the tunnels on a trip to Poland to visit Project Riese between 16-20 October 2014

 

 

 

The 24-hour-a-day work and filthy, unhygienic conditions ensured that many of the prisoners of war involved in their construction tragically lost their lives to exhaustion or illness. Photographer Michael Scott (right) said the tunnels came 'at a truly horrific human cost'

Previous occupants: The tunnels remain preserved exactly as they were when the Nazis abandoned them in order to defend more important bunkers over the border in Germany as the Allied armies advanced towards the end of the War

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Previous occupants: The tunnels remain preserved exactly as they were when the Nazis abandoned them in order to defend more important bunkers over the border in Germany as the Allied armies advanced towards the end of the War

Remembering the lost: This is a memorial to the 'Victims of Fascism' outside the Rzeczka underground complex of Project Riese

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Remembering the lost: This is a memorial to the 'Victims of Fascism' outside the Rzeczka underground complex of Project Riese