Saturday, June 12, 2010

HOLOCAUST & THE WARSAW UPRISINGS: The Ghetto in ‘43 and Polish Resistance in ‘45



One of the most horrific terms in history was used by Nazi Germany to designate human beings whose lives were unimportant, or those who should be killed outright: Lebensunwertes Leben, or "life unworthy of life". First applied to the mentally impaired, later to the "racially inferior", or "sexually deviant", or merely "enemies of the state" both internal and external. From very early in the war, part of Nazi policy was to murder civilians en masse, especially targeting Jews -- which later in the war became Hitler's "final solution", the complete extermination of the Jews. Beginning with Einsatzgruppen death squads in the East, killing some 1,000,000 people in numerous massacres, later in concentration camps where prisoners were actively denied proper food and health care, and ending with the construction of extermination camps -- government facilities whose entire purpose was the systematic murder and disposal of massive numbers of people. In 1945, as advancing Allied troops began discovering many camps, they found the results of these policies: hundreds of thousands of starving and sick prisoners locked in with more thousands of dead bodies. Evidence of gas chambers, high-volume crematoriums, thousands of mass graves, documentation of awful medical experimentation, and much more. The Nazis killed more than 10 million people in this manner, including 6 million Jews. (This entry is Part 18 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II) [45 photos]
Warning: All images in this entry are shown in full, not screened out for graphic content. There are many dead bodies. The photographs are graphic and stark. This is the reality of genocide, and of an important part of World War II and human history.


She has such natural beauty, she could pass for a movie star.

She smiles, her demeanour relaxed. In normal times, this young woman would surely have enjoyed a bright and happy future, perhaps with a husband, children, grandchildren.

But soon after this photograph was taken, she would face almost certain death. The haunting image is one of a series depicting Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland before they were rounded up to be sent to the gas chambers.

Despite the awfulness of her predicament, this Jewish woman manages to smile brightly for the camera as she poses for Jaeger

Despite the awfulness of her predicament, this Jewish woman manages to smile brightly for the camera as she poses for Jaeger

An elderly man with a yellow Star of David fixed to his chest, speaks with German officers as he and other Jews are rounded up in Kutno, German-occupied Poland in 1939

An elderly man with a yellow Star of David fixed to his chest, speaks with German officers as he and other Jews are rounded up in Kutno, German-occupied Poland in 1939

Innocent victims: These young Jewish girls couldn't possibly have imagined the horrors that lay ahead as they pose outside their tent in another haunting photograph taken by the ardent Nazi Hugo Jaeger

Innocent victims: These young Jewish girls couldn't possibly have imagined the horrors that lay ahead as they pose outside their tent in another haunting photograph taken by the ardent Nazi Hugo Jaeger

The clue is the curled-up piece of yellow cloth the unknown woman wears on her lapel – a makeshift Star of David.

All around her, and in other photos taken in the ghetto into which the Nazis corralled their prisoners, every man, woman and child was forced to wear one.

In peacetime, the six-pointed star was a proud symbol of Judaism. In the Holocaust which Hitler was about to unleash – here in the devastated town of Kutno – it would become their death-star.


The remarkable colour images were taken by the Führer’s personal photographer, a loyal follower given unprecedented access to the Third Reich’s elite. Hugo Jaeger was allowed to travel with Hitler to record his appearances at rallies, intimate parties and in private moments. More usually he dedicated himself to lionising his leader and what the Nazis regarded as their most triumphant moments.

Here, it appears, he seems simply to have been fascinated by faces from a different faith in a country under siege. He is said not to have shared Hitler’s unqualified hatred of Jews. Hence, whether he intended it or not, Jaeger’s camera captured an atmosphere rarely seen before horror and carnage overtook it.

Ghetto boys: In their tattered rags the two boys smile for the camera, but the man in the centre, most probably their father, has a look of distrust etched across his face

Ghetto boys: In their tattered rags the two boys smile for the camera, but the man in the centre, most probably their father, has a look of distrust etched across his face

While most photographs taken by the Nazis focus on the glory and triumphalism of the Reich, in this unusual set of pictures, Hugo Jaeger has chosen instead to capture the misery of the conquered

While most Jaeger's photographs focus on the glory and triumphalism of the Reich, here he has chosen instead to capture the misery of the conquered people instead

With their clean clothes and hair neatly coiffured, these three young women do not at first glance appear to be Jewish. But look closer and you find a star of David on the coat of the girl on the left

With their clean clothes and hair neatly coiffured, these three young women do not, at first glance, appear anything like Jaeger's other subjects. But look closer and you find a star of David on the coat of the girl on the left

After so many years, it is impossible to know for certain why so many people in the photographs are smiling. None appears to have been forced to pose, none seems to display any fear.

The trilby-hatted man in the coat with a fur collar, for example, seems quite comfortable in the company of German officers. Children in the squalor of a tented village appear unperturbed by the photographer. Yet Kutno, 75 miles west of Warsaw, had been bombarded and turned into a ghetto soon after Hitler’s invasion in September 1939.

Its sugar factory would be surrounded by barbed wire and used to imprison 8,000 Jews, crammed into appalling conditions.

Some would die of infection or starvation. Others would not live through the bitter cold of the winter.

The ghetto existed until 1942, when most of its surviving inhabitants were sent to death camps.

An elderly Jewish woman bends over her stove while a man, his Star of David badge clearly visible, watches over her in the Kutno Ghetto

An elderly Jewish woman bends over her stove while a man, his Star of David badge clearly visible, watches over her in the Kutno Ghetto

Makeshift dwelling: Jewish inhabitants of the Kutno Ghetto stand near a car which has been converted into a makeshift house in early 1940

Makeshift dwelling: Jewish inhabitants of the Kutno Ghetto stand near a car which has been converted into a makeshift house in early 1940

A young woman clutches a jug as she escorts an elderly Jewish man through the Kutno Ghetto in early 1940

A young woman clutches a jug as she escorts an elderly Jewish man through the Kutno Ghetto in early 1940

It is highly unlikely any of the people in these images survived. Incredibly, the photographs did.

The Kutno ghetto was ‘liquidated’ as part of the Final Solution in the spring of 1942. In 1945, as the Allies advanced into Germany, Jaeger knew he would be arrested and tried as a war criminal if he was caught with so many intimate photos of the defeated Führer.

So after secreting them, initially in a leather suitcase, he buried them in airtight glass jars outside Munich, returning from time to time to check they were safe.

Two decades after the war ended, he sold them to Life magazine.

Now the pictures have gone online at Despite attempts to identify some of the subjects, no record was ever found of the smiling young woman.

Historians said it would be astonishing if she had survived. At least the camera immortalised her.

The photos have been released to mark the official establishment of the Warsaw Ghetto in October 1940 and the entire set are on display at here.

Daily life: An aerial view of the Kutno Ghetto which was set up on the grounds of a sugar factory

Daily life: An aerial view of the Kutno Ghetto which was set up on the grounds of a sugar factory

A Jewish woman uses a washing board to clean clothes in the Kutno

A Jewish woman uses a washing board to clean clothes in the Kutno

Fate: In 1942, as part of Hitler's 'final solution' the Nazis began Operation Reinhardt, the plan to eliminate all of Poland's Jews. In the spring of 1942 the Kutno Ghetto itself was 'liquidated'

Fate: In 1942, as part of Hitler's 'final solution' the Nazis began Operation Reinhardt, the plan to eliminate all of Poland's Jews. In the spring of 1942 the Kutno Ghetto itself was 'liquidated'

An emaciated 18-year-old Russian girl looks into the camera lens during the liberation of Dachau concentration camp in 1945. Dachau was the first German concentration camp, opened in 1933. More than 200,000 people were detained between 1933 and 1945, and 31,591 deaths were declared, most from disease, malnutrition and suicide. Unlike Auschwitz, Dachau was not explicitly an extermination camp, but conditions were so horrific that hundreds died every week. (Eric Schwab/AFP/Getty Images)


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This photo provided by Paris' Holocaust Memorial shows a German soldier shooting a Ukrainian Jew during a mass execution in Vinnytsia, Ukraine, sometime between 1941 and 1943. This image is titled "The last Jew in Vinnitsa", the text that was written on the back of the photograph, which was found in a photo album belonging to a German soldier. (AP Photo/USHMM/LOC) #

Polish historians hope secret mass grave will yield hero of Auschwitz who VOLUNTEERED to enter death camp and chronicle exterminations

  • Witold Pilecki survived nearly three years as an inmate in the death camp,  smuggling out word of executions before making a daring escape
  • But the Polish resistance hero was crushed by the post-war communist regime, tried on trumped-up charges and executed
  • Poland now hopes Pilecki's remains will be identified among the skeletons of resistance fighters being excavated from a mass grave in Warsaw
Hero: Witold Pilecki infiltrated Auschwitz to chronicle Nazi atrocities. He survived nearly three years as an inmate in the death camp, before making a daring escape. But he was later executed

Hero: Witold Pilecki infiltrated Auschwitz to chronicle Nazi atrocities. He survived nearly three years as an inmate in the death camp, before making a daring escape. But he was later executed

It could hardly have been a riskier mission - to infiltrate Auschwitz and chronicle Nazi atrocities.

Witold Pilecki survived nearly three years as an inmate in the death camp, managing to smuggle out word of executions before making a daring escape. But the Polish resistance hero was crushed by the post-war communist regime tried on trumped-up charges and executed.

Six decades on, Poland hopes Pilecki's remains will be identified among the entangled skeletons and shattered skulls of resistance fighters being excavated from a mass grave on the edge of Warsaw's Powazki Military Cemetery.

The exhumations are part of a movement in the resurgent, democratic nation to officially recognize its war-time heroes and 20th century tragedies.

'He was unique in the world,' said Zofia Pilecka-Optulowicz, paying tribute to her father's 1940 decision to walk straight into a Nazi street roundup with the aim of getting inside the extermination camp. 'I would like to have a place where I can light a candle for him.'

More than 100 skeletons, mostly of men, have been dug up this summer. On one recent day, forensic workers and archaeologists wearing blue plastic gloves and masks were carefully scraping away at the soil and piecing together bones as if working on a jigsaw puzzle.

The front of one skull had been blown away by bullets; another had apparently been bludgeoned; a skeleton showed evidence of multiple gunshot wounds.

Near the pit where the bodies were dumped under cover of night stand the well-tended tombstones of the very judges and prosecutors who sent these World War II heroes to their deaths under orders from Moscow, which was fearful that the Polish patriots might use their seasoned underground skills to turn the nation against its new pro-Soviet rulers.
Held: In this photo taken in 1940, Witold Pilecki is seen as an inmate of the Auschwitz Birkenau death camp

Held: In this photo taken in 1940, Witold Pilecki is seen as an inmate of the Auschwitz Birkenau death camp
Hero: Witold Pilecki infiltrated Auschwitz to chronicle Nazi atrocities. He survived nearly three years as an inmate in the death camp, before making a daring escape. But he was later executed

Discovery: Poland now hopes Pilecki's remains will be identified among the skeletons of resistance fighters currently being excavated from a mass grave on the edge of Warsaw's Powazki Military Cemetery

Discovery: Poland now hopes Pilecki's remains will be identified among the skeletons of resistance fighters currently being excavated from a mass grave on the edge of Warsaw's Powazki Military Cemetery

'The perpetrators have not been punished and the bodies of the victims have not been found,' said Krzysztof Szwagrzyk, a historian in charge of the dig. 'Those times will be coming back to us until we find the bodies and bury them with due honors. 'We are doing them justice.'

Pilecki's son Andrzej and dozens of other relatives of victims have been swabbed in the hope their DNA will be a match for the skeletons. Initial work is being carried out to determine age, sex, height and injuries of the victims.

It will take several months to determine if Pilecki, who was killed by a bullet to the back of his head, is among them. Thousands of resistance fighters were killed across Poland; the remains of up to 400 are believed to have been dumped in the Powazki mass grave.

Pilecki was 38 when Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, triggering the start of World War II.

He helped organize a resistance campaign during which many fellow fighters were caught and sent to Auschwitz, which in the early war years served more as a camp for Polish resistance fighters than Jews.

Grim: More than 100 skeletons, mostly of men, have already been dug up this summer. In this photo an archeologist uncovers a skeleton during works at the cemetery

Grim: More than 100 skeletons, mostly of men, have already been dug up this summer. In this photo an archeologist uncovers a skeleton during works at the cemetery

Patience: A forensic worker sorts through bones during work at the cemetery. It will take several months to determine if Pilecki, who was killed by a bullet to the back of his head, is among them

Patience: A forensic worker sorts through bones during work at the cemetery. It will take several months to determine if Pilecki, who was killed by a bullet to the back of his head, is among them

That inspired him to hatch an audacious plan: He told other resistance commanders that he wanted to become an Auschwitz inmate to check on rumors of atrocities.

Carrying documents bearing the alias Tomasz Serafinski, the Catholic cavalry officer walked into the German SS street roundup in Warsaw in September 1940, and was put on a train transport to Auschwitz, where he was given prisoner number 4859.

He was 'exceptionally courageous,' said Jacek Pawlowicz, a historian with Warsaw's Institute of National Remembrance.

Pilecki is the only person known to have volunteered for Auschwitz. His terse dispatches to the outside world were slips of thin paper stitched inside clothes of inmates leaving the camp or left in nearby fields for others to collect.

They included only code names for inmates who were beaten to death, executed by gunfire or gassed. As sketchy as they were, they were the first eyewitness account of the Nazi death machine at Auschwitz.

Pilecki survived hard labor, beatings, cold and typhoid fever thanks to support from a clandestine resistance network that he managed to organize inside the camp. Some of its members had access to food, others to clothes or medicines.

Past: The exhumations are part of a movement in the resurgent, democratic Poland to officially recognize its war-time heroes and 20th century tragedies

Past: The exhumations are part of a movement in the resurgent, democratic Poland to officially recognize its war-time heroes and 20th century tragedies

Remembrance: Zofia Pilecka-Optulowicz, daughter of Witold Pilecki, attends a ceremony marking the archeological work at the Powazki cemetery Hero: Witold Pilecki infiltrated Auschwitz to chronicle Nazi atrocities. He survived nearly three years as an inmate in the death camp, before making a daring escape. But he was later executed


Remembrance: Zofia Pilecka-Optulowicz, daughter of Witold Pilecki, attends a ceremony marking the archeological work at the Powazki cemetery

He plotted a revolt that was to release inmates with the help of an outside attack by resistance fighters; it was never attempted because considered too risky, Pawlowicz said.

Pilecki escaped in April 1943 when he realized that the SS might uncover his work. With two other men he ran from a night shift at a bakery that was outside the death camp's barbed wire fence.

After his escape, Pilecki wrote three detailed reports on the extermination camp.

One describes how his transport was met by yelling SS men and attacking dogs: 'They told one of us to run to a post away from the road, and immediately sent a machine gun round after him. Killed him.

'Ten random colleagues were taken out of the group and shot, as they were walking, as "collective responsibility" for the "escape" that the SS-men arranged themselves.'

Difficult: A forensic worker cleans a skull during the excavation

Difficult: A forensic worker cleans a skull during the excavation

Pilecki's heroics were for the most part in vain. Even though his accounts of gas chambers made it all the way to Poland's government-in-exile in London and to other Western capitals, few believed what they were reading.

After escaping, Pilecki rejoined Poland's Home Army resistance force and fought in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, the city's ill-fated revolt against the Nazis.

In 1947, he was arrested by the secret security of the communist regime, imposed on Poland after the war, and falsely accused of planning to assassinate dignitaries.

The Soviet plan after World War II was to subdue the Poles by crushing resistance and erasing any sense of Polish identity or history.

Today, more than two decades into Poland's democracy, however, enough documentation and funds have been gathered to restore the banned past and try to find and identify the heroes' bodies.

In addition to Pilecki, the search is on for the remains of other wartime resistance heroes, including Brig. Gen. August Emil Fieldorf, a top clandestine Home Army commander who once served as emissary to Poland of the country's government-in-exile.

He was accused of ordering killings of Soviet soldiers charges that Poland's communist authorities later admitted were fabricated and hanged in 1953.

Szwagrzyk is not sure if Pilecki will be found at Powazki cemetery because it is not the only such clandestine site in Warsaw or the rest of Poland.

Respect: Soldiers and scouts stand in front of coffins containing remains of World War II heroes during a ceremony ending the archeological works at the Powazki cemetery

Respect: Soldiers and scouts stand in front of coffins containing remains of World War II heroes during a ceremony ending the archeological works at the Powazki cemetery

But his place in history is gradually being restored. A street in Warsaw is now named after him, as are some schools across the country.

He found communist prison harder to endure than Auschwitz. A fellow inmate described seeing him in prison slumped, unable to raise his head because his collar bones had been broken. At his show trial, he was hiding his hands because his fingernails had been ripped out during torture.

At one court session, he told his wife Maria that the secret security torture had sapped his will to go on.


German soldiers question Jews after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943. In October 1940, the Germans began to concentrate Poland's population of over 3 million Jews into overcrowded ghettos. In the largest of these, the Warsaw Ghetto, thousands of Jews died due to rampant disease and starvation, even before the Nazis began their massive deportations from the ghetto to the Treblinka extermination camp. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising -- the first urban mass rebellion against the Nazi occupation of Europe -- took place from April 19 until May 16 1943, and began after German troops and police entered the ghetto to deport its surviving inhabitants. It ended when the poorly-armed and supplied resistance was crushed by German troops. (OFF/AFP/Getty Images) #


A man carries away the bodies of dead Jews in the Ghetto of Warsaw in 1943, where people died of hunger in the streets. Every morning, about 4-5 A.M., funeral carts collected a dozen or more corpses from the streets. The bodies of the dead Jews were cremated in deep pits. (AFP/Getty Images) #


A group of Jews, including a small boy, is escorted from the Warsaw Ghetto by German soldiers in this April 19, 1943 photo. The picture formed part of a report from SS Gen. Stroop to his Commanding Officer, and was introduced as evidence to the War Crimes trials in Nuremberg in 1945. (AP Photo) #


After the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the Ghetto was completely destroyed. Of the more than 56,000 Jews captured, about 7,000 were shot, and the remainder were deported to killing centers or concentration camps. This is a view of the remains of the ghetto, which the German SS dynamited to the ground. The Warsaw Ghetto only existed for a few years, and in that time, some 300,000 Polish Jews lost their lives there. (AP Photo) #


A German in a military uniform shoots at a Jewish woman after a mass execution in Mizocz, Ukraine. In October of 1942, the 1,700 people in the Mizocz ghetto fought with Ukrainian auxiliaries and German policemen who had intended to liquidate the population. About half the residents were able to flee or hide during the confusion before the uprising was finally put down. The captured survivors were taken to a ravine and shot. Photo provided by Paris' Holocaust Memorial. (AP Photo/USHMM) #


Jewish deportees in the Drancy transit camp near Paris, France, in 1942, on their last stop before the German concentration camps. Some 13,152 Jews (including 4,115 children) were rounded up by French police forces, taken from their homes to the "Vel d'Hiv", or winter cycling stadium in southwestern Paris, in July of 1942. They were later taken to a rail terminal at Drancy, northeast of the French capital, and then deported to the east. Only a handful ever returned. (AFP/Getty Images) #


Anne Frank poses in 1941 in this photo made available by Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Netherlands. In August of 1944, Anne, her family and others who were hiding from the occupying German Security forces, were all captured and shipped off to a series of prisons and concentration camps. Anne died from typhus at age 15 in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, but her posthumously published diary has made her a symbol of all Jews killed in World War II. (AP Photo/Anne Frank House/Frans Dupont) #


The arrival and processing of an entire transport of Jews from Carpatho-Ruthenia, a region annexed in 1939 to Hungary from Czechoslovakia, at Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in Poland, in May of 1944. The picture was donated to Yad Vashem in 1980 by Lili Jacob. (AP Photo/Yad Vashem Photo Archives) #


Czeslawa Kwoka, age 14, appears in a prisoner identity photo provided by the Auschwitz Museum, taken by Wilhelm Brasse while working in the photography department at Auschwitz, the Nazi-run death camp where some 1.5 million people, most of them Jewish, died during World War II. Czeslawa was a Polish Catholic girl, from Wolka Zlojecka, Poland, who was sent to Auschwitz with her mother in December of 1942. Within three months, both were dead. Photographer (and fellow prisoner) Brasse recalled photographing Czeslawa in a 2005 documentary: "She was so young and so terrified. The girl didn't understand why she was there and she couldn't understand what was being said to her. So this woman Kapo (a prisoner overseer) took a stick and beat her about the face. This German woman was just taking out her anger on the girl. Such a beautiful young girl, so innocent. She cried but she could do nothing. Before the photograph was taken, the girl dried her tears and the blood from the cut on her lip. To tell you the truth, I felt as if I was being hit myself but I couldn't interfere. It would have been fatal for me." (AP Photo/Auschwitz Museum) #


A victim of Nazi medical experimentation. A victim's arm shows a deep burn from phosphorus at Ravensbrueck, Germany, in November of 1943. The photograph shows the results of a medical experiment dealing with phosphorous that was carried out by doctors at Ravensbrueck. In the experiment, a mixture of phosphorus and rubber was applied to the skin and ignited. After twenty seconds, the fire was extinguished with water. After three days, the burn was treated with Echinacin in liquid form. After two weeks the wound had healed. This photograph, taken by a camp physician, was entered as evidence during the Doctors Trial at Nuremberg. (U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, NARA) #


Jewish prisoners in Buchenwald concentration camp, after the liberation of the camp in 1945. (AFP/Getty Images) #


American soldiers silently inspect some of the rail trucks loaded with dead which were found on the rail siding at the Dachau concentration camp in Germany, on May 3, 1945. (AP Photo) #


A starved Frenchman sits among the dead in a sub-camp of the Mittelbau-Dora labor camp, in Nordhausen, Germany, in April of 1945. (U.S. Army/LOC) #


Bodies lie piled against the walls of a crematory room in a German concentration camp in Dachau, Germany. The bodies were found by U.S. Seventh Army troops who took the camp on May 14, 1945. (AP Photo) #


A U.S. soldier inspects thousands of gold wedding bands taken from Jews by the Germans and stashed in the Heilbronn Salt Mines, on May 3, 1945 in Germany. (AFP/NARA) #


Three U.S. soldiers look at bodies stuffed into an oven in a crematorium in April of 1945. Photo taken in an unidentified concentration camp in Germany, at time of liberation by U.S. Army. (U.S. Army/LOC) #


This heap of ashes and bones is the debris from one day's killing of German prisoners by 88 troopers in the Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar in Germany, shown on April 25, 1945. (AP Photo/U.S. Army Signal Corps) #


Prisoners at the electric fence of Dachau concentration camp cheer American soldiers in Dachau, Germany in an undated photo. Some of them wear the striped blue and white prison garb. They decorated their huts with flags of all nations which they had made secretly as they heard the guns of the 42nd Rainbow Division getting louder and louder on the approach to Dachau. (AP Photo) #


General Dwight D. Eisenhower and other American officers in the Ohrdruf concentration camp, shortly after the liberation of the camp in April of 1945. As American forces approached, the guards shot the remaining prisoners. (U.S. Army Signal Corps/NARA) #


A dying prisoner, too weak to sit up amid his rags and filth, victim of starvation and incredible brutality, at the Nordhausen concentration camp in Germany on April 18, 1945. (AP Photo) #


Prisoners on a death march from Dachau move towards the south along the Noerdliche Muenchner Street in Gruenwald, Germany, on April 29, 1945. Many thousands of prisoners were marched forcibly from outlying prison camps to camps deeper inside Germany as Allied forces closed in. Thousands died along the way, anyone unable to keep up was executed on the spot. Pictured, fourth from the right, is Dimitry Gorky who was born on Aug. 19, 1920 in Blagoslovskoe, Russia to a family of peasant farmers. During World War II Dmitry was imprisoned in Dachau for 22 months. The reason for his imprisonment is not known. Photo released by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/USHMM, courtesy of KZ Gedenkstaette Dachau) #


American soldiers walk by row after row of corpses lying on the ground beside barracks at the Nazi concentration camp at Nordhausen, Germany, on April 17, 1945. The camp is located about 70 miles west of Leipzig. As the camp was liberated on April 12, the U.S. Army found more than 3,000 bodies, and a handful of survivors. (AP Photo/US Army Signal Corps) #


A dead prisoner lies in a train carriage near Dachau concentration camp in May of 1945. (Eric Schwab/AFP/Getty Images) #


Liberating soldiers of Lt. General George S. Patton's 3rd Army, XX Corps, are shown at Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, Germany, on April 11, 1945. (AP Photo/U.S. Army) #


General Patch's 12th Armored Division, forging their way towards the Austrian border, uncovered horrors at a German prison camp at Schwabmunchen, southwest of Munich. Over 4,000 slave laborers, all Jews of various nationalities, were housed in the prison. The internees were burned alive by guards who set fire to the crude huts in which the prisoners slept, shooting any who tried to escape. Sprawled here in the prison enclosure are the burnt bodies of some of the Jewish slave laborers uncovered by the US 7th Army at Schwabmunchen, May 1, 1945. (AP Photo/Jim Pringle) #


The corpse of a prisoner lies on the barbed wire fence in Leipzig-Thekla, a sub-camp of Buchenwald, near Weimar, Germany. (NARA) #


These dead victims of the Germans were removed from the Lambach concentration camp in Austria, on May 6, 1945, by German soldiers under orders of U.S. Army troops. As soon as all the bodies were removed from the camp, the Germans buried them. This camp originally held 18,000 people, each building housing 1,600. There were no beds or sanitary facilities whatsoever, and 40 to 50 prisoners died each day. (AP Photo) #


A young man sits on an overturned stool next to a burnt body in the Thekla camp outside Leipzig, in April of 1945, after the US troops entered Leipzig April 18. On the 18th of April, the workers of the Thekla plane factory were locked in an isolated building of the factory by the Germans and burned alive by incendiary bombs. About 300 prisoners died. Those who managed to escape died on the barbed wire or were executed by the Hitler youth movement, according to a US captain's report. (Eric Schwab/AFP/Getty Images) #


Burned bodies of political prisoners of the Germans lie strewn about the entrance to a barn at Gardelegen, Germany on April 16, 1945 where they met their death a the hands of German SS troops who set the barn on fire. The group tried to escape and was shot by the SS troops. Of the 1,100 prisoners, only 12 managed to escape. (AP Photo/U.S. Army Signal Corps) #


Some of the skeleton-like human remains found by men of the Third Armored Division, U.S. First Army, at the German concentration camp at Nordhausen on April 25, 1945, where hundreds of "slave laborers" of various nationalities lay dead and dying. (AP Photo) #


When American troops liberated prisoners in the Dachau concentration camp, Germany, in 1945, many German SS guards were killed by the prisoners who then threw their bodies into the moat surrounding the camp. (AP Photo) #


Lt. Col. Ed Seiller of Louisville, Kentucky, stands amid a pile of Holocaust victims as he speaks to 200 German civilians who were forced to see the grim conditions at the Landsberg concentration camp, on May 15, 1945. (AP Photo) #


Starved prisoners, nearly dead from hunger, pose in a concentration camp in Ebensee, Austria, on May 7, 1945. The camp was reputedly used for "scientific" experiments. (NARA/Newsmakers) #


A Russian survivor, liberated by the 3rd Armored Division of the U.S. First Army, identifies a former camp guard who brutally beat prisoners on April 14, 1945, at the Buchenwald concentration camp in Thuringia, Germany. (AP Photo) #


Dead bodies piled up in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp after the British troops liberated the camp on April 15, 1945. The British found 60,000 men, women and children dying of starvation and disease. (AFP/Getty Images) #


German SS troops load victims of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp into trucks for burial, in Belsen, Germany, on April 17, 1945. British guards hold rifles in the background. (AP Photo/British Official Photo) #


Citizens of Ludwigslust, Germany, inspect a nearby concentration camp under orders of the 82nd Airborne Division on May 6, 1945. Bodies of victims of German prison camps were found dumped in pits in yard, one pit containing 300 bodies. (NARA) #


A pile of bodies left to rot in the Bergen-Belsen camp, in Bergen, Germany, found after the camp was liberated by British forces on April 20, 1945. Some 60,000 civilians, most suffering from typhus, typhoid and dysentery, were dying by the hundreds daily, despite the frantic efforts by medical services rushed to the camp. (AP Photo) #


Manacled following his arrest is Joseph Kramer, commandant of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Belsen, photographed on April 28, 1945. After standing trial, Kramer, "The Beast of Belsen", was convicted and executed in December of 1945. (AP Photo) #

German SS women remove bodies of their victims from trucks in the concentration camp at Belsen, Germany, on April 28, 1945. Starvation and disease killed hundreds of the many thousands imprisoned at the camp. British soldiers holding rifles in the background stand on the dirt which will fill the communal grave. (AP Photo/British official photo)


A German SS guard, standing amid hundreds of corpses, hauls another body of a concentration camp victim into a mass grave in Belsen, Germany in April of 1945. (AP Photo) #


Piles of the dead at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on April 30, 1945. Some 100,000 people are estimated to have died in this one camp alone. (AP Photo) #


A German mother shields the eyes of her son as they walk with other civilians past a row of exhumed bodies outside Suttrop, Germany. The bodies were those of 57 Russians killed by German SS troops and dumped in a mass grave before the arrival of troops from the U.S. Ninth Army. Soldiers of the 95th Infantry division were led by informers to the massive grave on May 3, 1945. Before burial, all German civilians in the vicinity were ordered to view the victims. (U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, U.S. Army Signal Corps)

A newly-constructed wall partitions the central part of Warsaw, Poland, seen on December 20, 1940. It is part of red brick and gray stone walls built 12 to 15 feet high by the Nazis as a ghetto - a pen for Warsaw's approximately 500,000 Jews. (AP Photo) #



A scene from the Warsaw Ghetto where Jews are seen wearing white armlets bearing the Star of David and trams are seen marked with the words "For Jews Only", on February 17, 1941. (AP Photo) #


A German Army officer lecturers children in a ghetto in Lublin, German-occupied Poland, on December 1940, telling them "Don't forget to wash every day." (AP Photo) #


The faces of Jewish children living in a ghetto in Szydlowiec, Poland, under Nazi occupation, on December 20, 1940. (AP Photo/Al Steinkopf) #

On April 19, 1943, on the eve of Passover, the police and SS auxiliary forces entered the Ghetto planning to complete their Action within three days. However, they suffered losses as they were repeatedly ambushed by Jewish insurgents, who aggressively fired and threw Molotov cocktails and hand grenades at them from alleyways, sewers and windows. Two German vehicles: A French-made Lorraine 37L armoured fighting vehicle and an armoured car were set on fire by ŻOB petrol bombs, and the German advance was bogged down.

Picture taken at Nowolipie street, between Smocza and Karmelicka street. On the right visible building at Nowolipie 34. Stroop Report original caption: "Smoking out the Jews and Bandits".

Stroop Report original caption: "A patrol." SS men on Nowolipie street of Warsaw Ghetto during the uprising. Buildings in the image from the right: Nowolipie 50a, then 52, 54 and wall of the townhouse nr. 56.

The original German caption reads: "Forcibly pulled out of dug-outs". Captured Jews are led by German soldiers to the assembly point for deportation. Picture taken at Nowolipie street looking East, near intersection with Smocza street. On the right townhouse at Nowolipie 63 further the ghetto wall with a gate. On the left burning balcony of the townhouse Nowolipie 66. Jewish IDs can be found here at [2]

Surrounded by heavily armed guards, SS-Brigadeführer Jürgen Stroop (center) watches housing blocks burn. SD Rottenführer at right is possibly Josef Blösche ("Frankenstein"). Picture taken at Nowolipie street looking East, near intersection with Smocza street. On the left burning balcony of the townhouse Nowolipie 66, next to it ghetto wall.
Stroop Report original caption: "The leader of the grand operation."

As the battle continued inside the Ghetto, Polish resistance groups AK and GL engaged the Germans between April 19 and April 23 at six different locations outside the ghetto walls, firing at German sentries and positions. In one attack, three cell units of AK under the command of Kapitan Józef Pszenny ("Chwacki") tried to breach the Ghetto walls with explosives, but the Germans repulsed this attack.

Following von Sammern-Frankenegg's failure to contain the revolt, he lost his post as the SS and police commander of Warsaw. He was replaced by SS-Brigadeführer Jürgen Stroop, who rejected von Sammern-Frankenegg's proposal to call in bomber aircraft from Kraków and proceeded with a better-organized ground assault.

The longest-lasting defense of a position took place around the ŻZW stronghold at Muranowski Square from April 19 to late April. In the afternoon of April 19, two boys climbed up on the roof of the headquarters of the Jewish Resistance there and raised two flags: the red-and-white Polish flag and the blue-and-white banner of the ŻZW (blue and white are the colors of the Flag of Israel today). These flags were well-seen from the Warsaw streets, and the Jews managed to hold off the Germans for four entire days in their attempts to remove them. Stroop recalled:

The matter of the flags was of great political and moral importance. It reminded hundreds of thousands of the Polish cause, it excited them and unified the population of the General Government, but especially Jews and Poles. Flags and national colors are a means of combat exactly like a rapid-fire weapon, like thousands of such weapons. We all knew that - Heinrich Himmler, Krüger, and Hahn. The Reichsfuehrer [Himmler] bellowed into the phone: "Stroop, you must at all costs bring down those two flags."[30]

Another German armoured vehicle was destroyed in a Jewish counterattack, in which ŻZW commander Dawid Moryc Apfelbaum was also killed. After Stroop's ultimatum to surrender was rejected by the defenders, the Nazis resorted to systematically burning houses block by block using flamethrowers and blowing up basements and sewers. "We were beaten by the flames, not the Germans," resistance leader Marek Edelman said in 2007.[2] In 2003, he recalled:

The sea of flames flooded houses and courtyards... There was no air, only black, choking smoke and heavy burning heat radiating form (sic) the red-hot walls, from the glowing stone stairs.[31]

The ŻZW lost all its leaders and, on April 29, 1943, the remaining fighters escaped the ghetto through the Muranowski tunnel, and relocated to the Michalin forest. This event marked the end of the organized resistance, and of significant fighting by the Jews.

The Polish Resistance fighter nervously crawled through the dank underground tunnel in desperate wartime Warsaw. But Jan Karski was not an escaper on his way to freedom. Quite the opposite.

When he emerged into the sunlight of a summer’s day in August 1942, he was inside an unimaginable hell-hole — the walled-up Jewish ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland’s capital.

He had crossed, he would recall with horror, from ‘the world of the living to the world of the dead’.

The patrician young man — a devout Catholic and a high-flying diplomat before the war — had gone there of his own free will. He was smuggled inside to see the Warsaw Ghetto for himself, an eyewitness to the Holocaust long before that epithet was widely used or the full extent of Hitler’s genocidal ambitions grasped.

What he saw that day would make him one of the first outside observers to witness Hitler’s evil plan to exterminate the Jews in action.

His intention was to report his findings to a world that was sceptical of rumours that such a massive atrocity was really happening under its nose.

Sadly, not much notice was taken. When the brave and resourceful Karski escaped to the West and, drawing on his photographic memory, told his gruesome story in London and Washington, he was greeted with polite interest . . . but also disbelief.

There was none of the outrage he expected his account to stir up. His pleas that the Allies should take strong action — such as warning the German people that they would collectively be held responsible for the atrocities sanctioned by their leaders — were ignored.

Saving the Jews from genocide was not made an official Allied war aim. A moment in history when something just might have been done to halt or at least slow a massive crime against humanity came and went.


Jews from the Warsaw ghetto surrender to German soldiers after the uprising

Karski went, too, from a brief interval of celebrity into the relative obscurity of a university professorship in the post-war United States.

But now, 70 years after his failed attempt to unmask Nazi Germany’s genocidal secret, his exploits are being recognised. A book by him is out today — a reprint of the one he wrote in 1944, now viewed as a classic insider’s account of the Resistance in occupied Europe.

And there are plans for a film of his life. The producer of Oscar-winning The King’s Speech is reported to have acquired the film rights, with Ralph Fiennes, who played a brutal SS officer in the Holocaust epic Schindler’s List, tipped to play Karski.

A decade after his death in 2000, the former army lieutenant from the city of Lodz in central Poland — real name Jan Kozielewski — is about to reclaim his place in history.

After all the harrowing descriptions of Holocaust horrors there have been over the years from survivors of Auschwitz, Belsen and Ravensbruck, Karski’s vivid account of what he saw back in 1942 is still deeply moving. We feel his shock and incredulity that this could really be happening in 20th century ‘civilised’ Europe.

Karski was used to suffering. The Polish people had been brutally repressed by the Nazis since the invasion of their country had started the war in 1939. Millions of Poles had also been forced into exile in Siberia by Stalin as part of the Soviet leader’s land-grabbing pact with Hitler as the two monsters divided Poland between them.

Karski spoke to Anthony Eden, pictured, who took the claims seriously - but action was not taken

Karski spoke to Anthony Eden, pictured, who took the claims seriously - but action was not taken

After Germany and Russia invaded Poland, Karski narrowly escaped Stalin’s Katyn massacre of the Polish officer corps — and began his remarkable wartime career in the Polish underground.

He joined the embryo Home Army, Europe’s first anti-Nazi resistance, and was employed as a courier dodging in and out of the country.

Once, he was captured and severely tortured by the Gestapo. Recuperating in hospital, he was smuggled out by the resistance and spirited away. The Polish government-in-exile then gave him the mission of finding out what was really going on in German-occupied Poland and reporting on it to the outside world.

Now the 25-year-old arranged to visit the Warsaw ghetto, guided by members of the Jewish underground through a secret tunnel that ran from the basement of a house outside the wall to a basement on the other side.

That day as he stepped out into its narrow, rubble-strewn streets the entire population of around 400,000 seemed to be crammed into the streets. ‘There was hardly a square yard of empty space,’ he recorded. ‘Everywhere there was hunger, misery, the atrocious stench of decomposing bodies, the pitiful moans of dying children, the desperate cries and gasps of a people struggling for life against impossible odds.’

But, as he shuffled through the streets of the Ghetto, disguised in ragged clothes and wearing a Star of David, he could see with his own eyes that what was being done to the Jews was even worse than he feared. He watched appalled as 14-year-old boys of the Hitler Youth — ‘all round, rosy-cheeked and blue-eyed’ — hunted down human beings and killed them for sport.

One of them took aim with a pistol and fired through the window of a house. From inside came the terrible cry of someone in agony. The boy shouted with joy and his friend clapped him on the back in congratulation. Here was a place where every semblance of decency, dignity and humanity has gone.

‘Everyone seemed enveloped in a haze of disease and death,’ recalled Karski. ‘We passed a miserable replica of a park, a little square in which a patch of grass had managed to survive. Mothers huddled closed together, nursing withered infants.

‘Children, every bone in their skeletons showing through their taut skins, played. “They play before they  die,” my guide said, his voice breaking with emotion.

‘I don’t see many old people,’ he whispered to the Jewish guide. ‘Do they stay inside all day?’ ‘No,’ said his guide, in a voice that seemed to issue from the grave. ‘Don’t you understand the German system yet? Those still capable of any effort are used for forced labour. The others are murdered by quota. First come the sick and aged, then the unemployed. They intend to kill us all.’

Jan Karski, pictured here at UN in 2000, will now have his story made into a film. He died shortly after this picture was taken

Jan Karski, pictured here at UN in 2000, will now have his story made into a film. He died in the same year that this picture was taken

To ram home the point, the Jewish underground arranged for him to infiltrate one of the places where this ‘final solution’ was happening. He entered a forest camp wearing the borrowed uniform of one of the Ukrainian guards, to find ‘a dense, pulsating, throbbing noisy human mass’ held behind barbed wire, starved, stinking, many of them half-insane from hunger, thirst and fear.

They were Jews from Warsaw and had been brought 120 miles crammed into cattle trucks. Here they were stripped of all their belongings before being whipped back onto the trucks, which Karski could see had now been lined with quicklime and chlorine. ‘The whole camp reverberated with a tremendous volume of sound, in which hideous groans and screams mingled with gunshots, curses and bellowed commands.’

Once the doors were slammed shut, the deadly, flesh-consuming lime would do its work as the train with its screaming and dying cargo slowly made its way to the death camp at Belzec, where those still alive would be gassed.

Karski saw sights of brutality and suffering ‘that I, if I lived to be a hundred, I would never forget’. For days after fleeing the camp he could not stop vomiting.

He was not to know that what he had seen was just a partial glimpse of the full horror — that at Auschwitz, Treblinka and Sobibor as well as Belzec, the Third Reich was revving up its killing machine to an industrial, conveyor-belt scale. But as he struggled to take in horrors beyond civilised imagining, he knew many people would choose not believe him. ‘They will think I exaggerate or invent. But I saw it and it is not exaggerated or invented. I have no proof, no photographs. All I can say is that I saw it, and it is the truth.’

His escape to the West was an epic in itself. Ingeniously, he had a dentist inject a drug to make his jaw swell visibly so he would have an excuse not to be drawn into a conversation with policemen or fellow train passengers. His teeth, smashed by the Gestapo, added authenticity to his condition.

On forged travel documents, he passed through Berlin, the wolf’s lair itself, and German-occupied Brussels and Paris. Then it was a hard trek over the Pyrenees to Spain, a boat to Gibraltar and a plane to London. He had documentary evidence — reports of others — on a roll of microfilm, which was welded inside a hollowed-out house key that he never let out of his sight.

In London, he was taken to see the British Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, who seemed sympathetic. After hearing Karski out, Eden seemed convinced that a policy of extermination — as opposed to random atrocities — was being carried out in Germany. He subsequently told the House of Commons that ‘those responsible for these crimes shall not escape retribution’.

Karski had a dentist inject a drug to make his jaw swell visibly so he would have an excuse not to be drawn into a conversation with policemen or fellow train passengers

The MPs rose to their feet and stood in silence as a mark of respect for the suffering Jews — but there the action stopped. There would be no targeted bombing, no air-drop leafleting of Germany to warn the populace that they could be the ones held to account, nothing to make the Third Reich re-think.

Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda chief, was openly contemptuous. Jews were calling down Old Testament curses on his head and the Fuhrer’s ‘but so far I haven’t noticed any effect on me,’ he bragged.

A disappointed Karski now took his account of the atrocities he had witnessed to Washington, where one of the first eminent men he met, a justice of the Supreme Court, told him bluntly: ‘I am unable to believe you.’

That the man was himself a Jew horrified Karski, but it was not unusual. There were Jews on both sides of the Atlantic who clung to the belief that reports like Karski’s were exaggerated because contemplating the truth was too horrible.

In the same way, Jews in Europe had refused to grasp what was happening to them even as they were being rounded up. It is one of history’s awful ironies that the first Holocaust-deniers were the victims themselves.

So why did Karksi’s crucial message fail to hit home? The answer is that everyone of importance to whom he related his story had an agenda that was different from his.

His Resistance superiors in Warsaw had sent him on the perilous trip to London for a specific purpose — to tell the Polish government-in-exile and the Allied leaders precisely how thoroughly the Resistance was organised and how well it was operating clandestinely despite the German occupation. (Hence the otherwise inexplicable title of his book, Story Of A Secret State.)

It has always been a vexed question of what the Allies knew about the Holocaust and when, what they might have done and why they stayed their hand. They waited until the incontrovertible truth emerged with the liberation of the camps — and by then it was too late

The fate of the Warsaw Jews was not the prime issue for them. This was Karski’s personal and heart-felt addition to the story but his visit to the ghetto and the death camp took up just two of his book’s 33 chapters. Much of the rest was a blueprint of how to run a successful underground movement — and it was this that those he reported to seemed more interested in.

When he briefed Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House, Karski barely had a chance to mention genocide as the president quizzed him on partisan activity, techniques for sabotage and so on. He was curious about ‘the very climate and atmosphere of underground work and the minds of the men engaged in it’, Karski recalled.

He gave Roosevelt the sort of first-hand dare-devilry that Allied leaders — Churchill, for example — always revelled in. There was no more than a passing reference to ‘the practices against the Jews’.

Karski was frustrated but, as he said years later: ‘I was a young man, a little guy, merely a courier. I had no leverage talking to these powerful men.’ The problem was that those men of power had agendas that superseded his.

A major difficulty with his report and another reason for it being sidelined was that it impinged on their global politics. It detailed how a free Polish state was already in existence to take over the running of the country once the Germans were ousted and doubted if it would be able to co-operate with Soviet-backed partisans.

This assessment did not sit happily with Allied leaders, who were even then doing a backdoor deal with Stalin — now their much-needed ally against Hitler — to hand a post-war Poland over to his sphere of influence.

Karski, deeply anti-communist and determined that a free Poland would emerge from the wreckage of the war, was in danger of upsetting their carefully constructed apple cart for the future of eastern Europe.

Poor Karski. He had two big warnings to give to the world — about Hitler’s slaughter of the Jewish people and Stalin’s evil intentions towards Poland. On both he was right, on both he was ignored, while others played politics with millions of lives.

It has always been a vexed question of what the Allies knew about the Holocaust and when, what they might have done and why they stayed their hand. They waited until the incontrovertible truth emerged with the liberation of the camps — and by then it was too late.

If only, one has to wonder, they had heeded the brave Karski’s words — ‘I saw it, and it is the truth’ — something could have been done to stop the extermination of six million.

 One of the many sobering lessons of the Third Reich was the failure of Germany's intellectual elite to stop the rise of Hitler. Starting in 1933, with Hitler's assumption of power, German poets, philosophers, playwrights, artists and scientists-including Bertolt Brecht, Thomas Mann, Walter Benjamin, Stefan Zweig and thousands of others-seeing the writing on the wall, packed up and found new homes. French scholar Palmier has written a well-nigh exhaustive work on this cultural diaspora. His staggering achievement is to portray the exquisite poignancy of these exiles' situation: powerless Germans forced to watch their country implode from abroad. Palmier's deceptively straightforward structure cloaks a far more cunning and generous approach. "Europe" ends in Barcelona, while the American phase ends with McCarthy; thus, he shows, these cultural stalwarts were learning new forms of political disappointment with each passing day. Palmier's command of this vast subject is truly breathtaking; he finds space to address exiles in Turkey, China and Latin America; exiles in American academia; and the legal problems they faced. And all the while, the story of these exiles is really, by indirection, the story of the Third Reich itself constantly agitating against them.

The topic of mind control is elaborate, multifaceted, and multi layered. For the casual reader, it can quickly become numbing, overwhelming the senses and creating a desire to exit the topic, but avoiding this subject is the most foolish thing you could possibly do since your only chance of surviving this hideous and insidious enslavement agenda, which today threatens virtually all of humanity, isto understand how it functions and take steps to reduce your vulnerability.

The plans to create a mind controlled workers society have been in place for a long time. The current technology grew out of experiments that the Nazis started before World War II and intensified during the time of the Nazi concentration camps when an unlimited supply of children and adults were available for experimentation. We've heard about the inhumane medical experiments performed on concentration camp prisoners, but no word was ever mentioned by the media and the TV documentaries of the mind control experiments. That was not to be divulged to the American public. Mind control technologies can be broadly divided into two subsets: trauma-based or electronic-based.

The first phase of government mind control development grew out of the old occult techniques which required the victim to be exposed to massive psychological and physical trauma, usually beginning in infancy, in order to cause the psyche to shatter into a thousand alter personalities which can then be separately programmed to perform any function (or job) that the programmer wishes to"install". Each alter personality created is separate and distinct from the front personality. The 'front personality' is unaware of the existence or activities of the alter personalities. Alter personalities can be brought to the surface by programmers or handlers using special codes, usually stored in a laptop computer. The victim of mind control can also be affected by specific sounds, words, or actions known as triggers.

The second phase of mind control development was refined at an underground base below Fort Hero on Montauk , Long Island (New York) and is referred to as the Montauk Project. The earliest adolescent victims of Montauk style programming, so called Montauk Boys, were programmed using trauma-based techniques, but that method was eventually abandoned in favor of an all-electronic induction process which could be "installed" in a matter of days (or even hours) instead of the many years that it took to complete trauma-based methods.

Dr. Joseph Mengele of Auschwitz notoriety was the principle developer of the trauma-basedMonarch Project and the CIA'sMK Ultra mind control programs. Mengele and approximately 5, 000 other high ranking Nazis were secretly moved into the United States and South America in the aftermath of World War II in an Operation designated Paperclip. The Nazis continued their work in developing mind control and rocketry technologies in secret underground military bases. The only thing we were told about was the rocketry work with former Nazi star celebrities like Warner Von Braun. The killers, torturers, and mutilators of innocent human beings were kept discretely out of sight, but busy in U.S. underground military facilities which gradually became home to thousands upon thousands of kidnapped American children snatched off the streets (about one million per year) and placed into iron bar cages stacked from floor to ceiling as part of the 'training'. These children would be used to further refine and perfect Mengele's mind control technologies. Certain selected children (at least the ones who survived the 'training') would become future mind controlled slaves who could be used for thousands of different jobs ranging anywhere from sexual slavery to assassinations. A substantial portion of these children, who were considered expendable, were intentionally slaughtered in front of (and by) the other children in order to traumatize the selected trainee into total compliance and submission.


Jewish marchers WWII Child Captives in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, the Frydman family, like millions of Jews, were doomed.

Roman Frydman, a wealthy lawyer, disappeared not long after joining the Polish army.

His wife Lucja and their two young daughters were bundled into Warsaw's Jewish ghetto, where thousands were to die of disease and starvation even before mass deportations began to Treblinka concentration camp.

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frydman family

Born survivors: The Frydman family shortly before the 1939 Nazi invasion of Poland


The chances of any member of the family surviving were tiny.

The chances of all four surviving, and then finding each other again, weren't even worth considering.

Yet over and over again, each of the Frydmans miraculously defied death, and in 1945 were just as miraculously reunited.

For more than 60 years, the family's extraordinary story has gone untold. This week, however, it's to be the subject of a Channel Five documentary called The Family That Defied Hitler: Revealed.

Scroll to the bottom of the page to watch a preview of the documentary

For London-based documentary- maker Michael Attwell, who first stumbled upon the story while visiting a friend in Sheffield 20 years ago, it is the culmination of a long-held ambition.

"My friend's mother happened to be Lucja's cousin, and when she heard that I made documentaries, she said, 'Have I got a story for you,'" said Attwell.

"And she certainly did ? a most amazing tale of sacrifice, heroism and courage.

"While it's rumoured that one other family of Polish Jews did manage to survive, the Frydmans are the only family whose story has been confirmed as true.

"The Jews of Poland, like those of Germany and Austria, had even less chance of surviving than Jews in other parts of Europe ? apart from anything else, they lived under Nazi tyranny for the longest period of time."

Roman and Lucja Frydman died in the Sixties, but their two daughters ? Margaret, who was nine at the time of the invasion, and Irene, then three ? are alive today.

Now grandmothers, Margaret, 77, lives in Paris, while Irene, 71, is a dentist in New York.

The two women tell how, within a few months of their father's departure, their mother was ordered to leave the family's home and move to Warsaw's infamous ghetto.

Along with hundreds of thousands of other Jews, Lucja and her daughters lived there, in a tiny room, for three years.

From the start, Lucja had an extremely strong survival instinct, Attwell said.

"She befriended a senior Jewish doctor who helped care for and protect the family, sold possessions for food and made her girls spend two hours every day removing typhus-carrying lice from their hair."

Initially, people were allowed to leave the ghetto each day to buy food and go to work or school, but in 1941 the Nazis sealed the area, resulting in 100,000 people dying from starvation and disease.

In June 1942, the Gestapo began deporting the ghetto's residents to Treblinka, removing 300,000 within just a few months.

"Lucja made the heart-rendingly hard but vital decision to have her daughters smuggled out, one at a time," said Attwell.

"She was able to arrange for the family's former chauffeur to take Irene, then six."

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frydman family

Today: Irene (left) and Margaret

"Smuggling me out was a harder proposition," Margaret said, 'because I was then 12 and I had a bad face."

By that, she means she looked obviously Jewish.

However, Lucja knew of a teenage girl who had died, leaving a permit to go outside the ghetto to do unpaid work for the Germans, so she dressed Margaret in high-heeled shoes and lipstick to make her look older.

Margaret got out and was taken to an empty flat by a friend of Lucja, where she sat alone and terrified for 14 days, not knowing if anyone was ever going to collect her.

Eventually, both girls were taken to nuns from a Catholic order called the Sisters of the Family of Mary, known to be willing to shelter Jewish children within their network of orphanages.

"The Nazis knew the nuns were hiding Jewish children, despite the risks they ran of immediate execution if caught, and soldiers repeatedly searched the building," Attwell said.

"Meanwhile, Lucja kept evading the mass-deportation round-ups, which ceased only when the few thousand remaining inhabitants of the ghetto staged a doomed uprising.

"The Germans called in dive bombers, flame-throwers and tanks, and in just a few days, the uprising was crushed.

"Lucja escaped just before this final cataclysm. She joined the Polish Resistance and, a year later, took part in the equally doomed Warsaw uprising."

Yet again, though, Lucja survived ? only to be rounded up and sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany.

Although a labour camp and not a death camp, Ravensbrück was a haven for sadists, one of whom was Hermine Braunsteiner, known as the Stamping Mare because she liked kicking women and children to death.

"My mother was within days of starving to death when the camp was liberated by the Russians," Irene recalled.

Lucja made her way back to Warsaw on foot, not knowing if her daughters were still alive and certain her husband was dead.

But Roman Frydman had also survived ? saved, incredibly, by a game of chess.

"Soon after the Nazi invasion, he crossed the border into neighbouring Hungary with his regiment," Attwell said.

"But in 1944, the Nazis invaded Hungary and began deporting Jews. Roman was taken to a Gestapo officer for interrogation, but when he arrived, he noticed the officer had a chess set in his room and asked him if he played.

"Roman's brother had been a Polish chess champion before the war, and the German had once played in a competition against his brother.

"The officer asked Roman if he played too, and when the Pole said he did, but not particularly well, the German replied, 'OK, let's have a game. And if you win, I will save your life.'"

Roman played ? and won. From then on, the SS officer kept him imprisoned in Gestapo headquarters, having him released from noon to 2pm every day to play chess with him.

"They actually became great friends", Margaret said.

As the German retreat began, Roman too made his way back to Warsaw and the family home, which was in ruins.

But 14-year-old Margaret had left a message on the wall saying where she and Irene were.

First Roman and then Lucja saw the message, and went to the convent where they were all reunited.

"For the next ten months we just ate and ate and ate," Irene laughed.

Reflecting on the reasons for her family's survival, she said: "There were a lot of really wonderful people who risked their lives to save us ? like the nuns. But you always have to fight not to be a victim. If you can keep your head up, you can accomplish a great deal."

Irena in the car of Social Welfare Department in front of a governmental stand

She was dubbed the ‘angel of Warsaw’ by one newspaper. With her death this May, Irena Sendler’s legend took flight. A sheaf of obituaries paid tribute to the Polish woman who saved 2,500 Jewish children from the Nazi-created ghetto.

At the time of her death, I had just returned from interviewing her daughter and friends in Poland. One of them immediately sent an email, saying: ‘I am glad you have the true story to tell. Irena deserves it.’

Irena Sendler saved twice as many Jews from death as the celebrated Oskar Schindler, who inspired Steven Spielberg’s film.

Unlike Schindler, she was arrested and tortured by the Gestapo. Unlike Schindler, who knew the people he helped, she risked her life for strangers.

Yet astonishingly, Irena lived in obscurity for decades and when she was finally acknowledged was presented as a bland icon, not nearly as interesting as the paradoxical Schindler.

It was really only in 1999, after four teenage girls from Kansas were assigned a school history project – to find out more about this rumoured heroine of the German occupation – that her story was uncovered.

The pupils tracked her down and wrote a play about her which they performed across America. Now it’s being made into a film, with Angelina Jolie mooted to star.

Belatedly, Irena received recognition including Poland’s highest honour. But inevitably, the American students’ portrait of Irena reflected their youthful naivety. Irena emerged into the international spotlight as a predictable female stereotype: a Madonna of the ghetto, a living saint.

Shortly after the students found her, Irena retreated to a care home, her world now shrunk to a high-backed chair and a table holding pill bottles, tissue boxes and faded photographs. She was admitted to hospital with heart problems on 6 May.

As the 98-year-old’s life ebbed away, her friends spoke to me. One summarised, ‘She was fully aware of the image she had created, but she couldn’t burst the bubble.’

Irena's daughter, Janka

Irena's daughter Janka

Couldn’t or wouldn’t? Like many of the war generation, she disliked talking about her experiences, deflecting questions about her motives and emotions.

Routinely described as a practising Roman Catholic, she was actually an agnostic with an unruly love life.

She emphasised the influence of her doctor father, who taught her ‘to help anybody in need’. But he had died, after catching typhus from patients, when she was seven. How much did Irena remember? How much was a potent family myth passed down by her bereaved mother?

Irena the idealist wanted to change the world. She was bossy. ‘She had a Margaret Thatcher personality,’ her close friend Elzbieta Ficowska suggested to me. It is an illuminating comparison, though Irena was left-wing, working in Warsaw’s welfare department by 1939, on the eve of war.

She was 29, beautiful, with a ‘fantastic will for life’. Her daughter Janka, 61, who lives in Warsaw, told me, ‘My father [Stefan Zgrzembski] met Mum before the war. I don’t know exactly what it was about her that fascinated him but somehow their love affair continued even though she married someone else.’

The someone else was Meiczyslaw Sendler, whom Irena was soon waving off to the front line.

Professor Michal Glowinski one of the Jewish children rescued by Irena

Michal Glowinski, one of the Jewish children who was rescued

After German troops marched into the city that autumn, they began relocating the Jewish population to the ghetto, closing it a year later and trapping 400,000 people in squalor within its walls.

A quarter died from starvation and disease even before the deportation to concentration camps began.

But, fearful of typhus crossing into Aryan Warsaw, the occupiers allowed the social services department access to the ghetto, and Irena began using her pass to smuggle in medicine and food.

After joining one of the underground movements, she began to smuggle out children. She led a network of ten, nine of them women, one of whom died for her resistance activities.

They hid the children in coffins and body bags, led them through cellars and sewers; they sedated babies and carried them out in boxes. Irena placed infants with childless couples, and older children in temporary ‘foster’ homes where they learned Catholic rites before melting away into church orphanages and schools.

Michal Glowinski, 74, knew Irena from childhood as a friend of his Jewish family. She also saved his life by hiding him in an isolated convent. ‘She was an organisational genius. Though the youngest, she imposed her will on her colleagues, making quick decisions which no one questioned,’ he says.

Elzbieta Ficowska was smuggled out in a carpenter’s box at the age of six months, and re-homed with one of Irena’s closest colleagues. ‘I was 14 when I realised that my “father” had died in 1941, whereas I was born in 1942,’ she told me.

‘When I was 17, a friend said she’d heard I was Jewish. At that point, my Polish mum told me the truth, giving me a silver spoon engraved with my name and birth date, which my blood family had placed in the box with me.

‘I consider both my Polish mum and Irena to be a little pathological. It is a kind of insanity to overcome such fear. They were so alike, my mum and Irena – fantastic, strong women.’

She says her Polish mother was a keen gambler, which raises an intriguing idea: did the two women subliminally enjoy the ultimate gamble of risking their lives?

Irena at home in Poland at age 91

Irena at home in Poland, aged 91

Irena was charismatic enough to persuade hesitant Jewish parents to hand over their children to the care of gentiles.

Elzbieta has since heard that her Jewish family wept when they learned she was to be baptised. Later, though, they signalled their understanding by sending a white christening robe and a tiny gold cross through intermediaries.

For her part, Irena was determined to reunite children and birth parents when the war ended. She made two coded lists, recording the children’s fake and real identities, and buried these in glass jars in the garden of a friend.

One night in October 1943 – betrayed by a colleague under questioning, and by an inquisitive landlady – Irena was arrested by the Gestapo and taken to the notorious Pawiak prison.

Over a period of three months, she was tortured – the soles of her feet beaten repeatedly – but revealed nothing.

She escaped on the morning of her scheduled execution with the connivance of her guard, who had been bribed by the resistance. For the rest of the war, she lived as her rescued children lived – in hiding, under an assumed name.

Irena and daughter Janka

Irena with Janka in 1949

This is the point, as peace arrives, where the film will doubtless cut away, slicing to the arrival of the American students five decades later. She would probably approve, preferring to draw a veil over the intervening years.

According to Michal Glowinski, ‘She had a tough life in her relationships. In the Polish biography about her, none of this is mentioned because Irena did not want it to be. The truth is, Irena, whose special skills saved lives, was not very good at making life happier for herself.’

Her daughter, Janka, filled me in. ‘The family legend has it that my mum went to a fortune teller who told her she would be married three times but only have two husbands, and that’s exactly what happened.’

Irena divorced Sendler and in 1947 married Stefan (by whom she had three children, Janka, Andrzej, who died in infancy, and Adam, who died of heart failure in adulthood).

Twelve years later, though, she divorced Stefan and remarried Sendler. That rematch also failed.

Janka said this marital turmoil left emotional ‘wounds’ and ‘melancholy’.

'A big problem with my dad was that he didn’t want her to work, and my mum was working 36 hours a day,’ Janka joked.

‘When I think of my childhood, I remember our housekeeper. Both my brother and I were hurt that [our mother’s] passion was saving the world, not us. But my brother never got over this, while I decided there was no purpose in scratching old scabs.’

Curiously, Irena smothered the two orphaned Jewish teenagers she took in after the war.

‘One stayed only a short time with us because she found my mother’s excessive care irritating. She said, “I had a mother, and no surrogate is going to foster me.’’’

Were Irena’s emotions warped by the war? Anna Mieszkowska is the author of her Polish biography. ‘Irena told me not to put this story in the book.

'She was asked to save two children, a boy and a girl. The parents wanted them to go but the grandparents did not. Irena arrived at their address and found the whole family had committed suicide – grandparents, parents, children. She had nightmares about this for many years.’

And Janka told me, ‘My mother never bought anything. She thought possessions were pointless because they would be destroyed if war came again, so it was my dad who had to buy books for us to read, plates for the kitchen.

‘I always warned Mum when a storm was forecast, because the thunder would upset her. The same with fireworks. It reminded her of shooting.

'She couldn’t sleep alone. She had to know someone was in her apartment. She was useless at everyday, normal things. In later years, I took this on. I took care of the “saint”.’

Elzbieta Ficowska who wss smuggled out of the ghetto at six months old

Elzbieta Ficowska, who was smuggled out of the Warsaw ghetto at
six months old

With age, Irena’s tiny frame seemed to collapse, eroded by osteoporosis. Her eyesight failing and unable  to read newspapers, she somehow kept abreast of political developments.

She once fired off a letter to the American students in which she called George W Bush ‘a bastard’. Her translator was rather shocked that an elderly saint knew such language.

She was visited regularly not only by Janka but also by Elzbieta, whom she regarded as an honorary daughter (though the two ‘daughters’ had a prickly relationship).

Irena was ambiguous towards her belated lionisation. She craved acknowledgement for her resistance colleagues who were forgotten by history. She gleefully told friends she was treated ‘like the Queen of England’ when she returned from a trip to be honoured in Israel.

But she was only too aware that we prefer to view the Holocaust through the prism of stories such as hers with the satisfactory conclusion of rescue and hope.

Yet there were no clear-cut happy endings to Irena’s story, nor to the rescued children’s. Michal Glowinski told me: ‘You can survive the Shoah but you cannot escape its effects.’

Despite Irena’s efforts after the war – the disinterment of the glass jars with their coded information – few of the children were reunited with their parents. The gas chambers of Treblinka saw to that.

Consequently, many of the rescued have struggled with psychological problems and questions of identity. And as their parents once feared, these children are no longer Jewish.

‘I go to the synagogue from time to time as a kind of delegate of my lost family, but it’s alien to me,’ says Elzbieta Ficowska.

‘When I enter a Catholic church, everything is mine. Sometimes I look in the mirror for traces of my real parents. I sent letters all around the world to try to find out about them.’ She has never even seen a photograph.


Irena in a social welfare department truck in May 1948

Sitting with me on a sunny café terrace in May, snatching an interval from her vigil beside her mother’s bed, Janka concluded: ‘To me, my mother’s story shows that you are not aware what you are capable of – either for good or for bad – until a critical moment comes.’

Irena herself once summarised her story in a way that acknowledges both her public and private struggles: ‘I tried to live a human life, which isn’t always easy

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Child Captives in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

German soldiers lead away child captives in Warsaw during the ghetto uprising of 1943. Hundreds of children kept the ghetto alive by smuggling in food and medicine from outside until the ghetto was demolished in May 1943.

Tyrant: Soviet leader Josef Stalin

Tyrant: Soviet leader Josef Stalin

When a platoon of conquering German SS soldiers entered a remote village in Russia in 1941, their leader, Alois Knäbel, was told by an informer that the local cobbler was Jewish.

Knäbel had the man, his wife and three-year-old daughter brought to him and set the adults to work scrubbing his quarters. When they had finished, he led them outside and, while holding the child’s hand, he shot them dead.

The toddler started screaming, and Knäbel picked her up, stroked her hair and muttered soothing words to her. Then, as he cradled her to his chest with one hand, he used the other to shoot her in the neck.

His fellow SS troopers were most impressed.

‘Look how finely Knäbel did that,’ said one admiringly, ‘how he first calmed down the child and then killed her.’

This single, small, sad incident demonstrates why — while I do not think any war has ever been good — I believe fervently that World War II was a necessary one.

The Nazis and their partners in crime tried fundamentally to alter the moral understanding of humanity — and with the likes of Alois Knäbel they succeeded. They did this by locating their murderous depredations within a warped moral framework that defined their violence as purifying, necessary and righteous.

They thought they were a superior breed on a historic mission to eliminate the Jewish race, whose very existence they believed posed a threat. They were doing so, they claimed, on behalf of future generations of Germans.

In reality, they were participants in what Churchill called ‘the greatest and most horrible single crime ever committed in the whole history of the world’. The war against the Nazis was, as the title of my new book says, very much a ‘moral combat’.

What still chills me to the marrow, is the realisation that barbarism soon became an industrial process — in which the killers took a perverted craftsman’s pride.

An SS officer named Friedrich Jeckeln proudly developed a new technique of packing down layers of victims to make the best use of trench space.

The killing squads started by lining up their victims in front of the graves in the manner of firing squads, but too often this required officers to deliver the coup de grace with their pistols.

They tried shooting standing victims from behind at close range, but gore flew back into their faces.

After technical discussions — carried on in earshot of the next victims in line — it was deemed easier to shoot people kneeling or lying down within the graves, which made for an easier clean-up.

Trauma: Survivors of Auschwitz after their liberation on January 27, 1945

Trauma: Survivors of Auschwitz after their liberation on January 27, 1945

In major operations — such as the slaughter of 33,771 Jews at Babi Yar in the Ukraine, which took days to accomplish — mobile field kitchens arrived with warm food and special rations of schnapps. Some of the units were so drunk they were sick while performing executions.

German Army spectators were welcome — since this further contributed to the perpetrators’ sense of normality — but one SS officer who brought his pregnant bride along was considered to have crossed the line. That’s how warped their sense of morality was. At least 2.9 million Jews were killed

by men standing a few feet away from them. The genocidal regime tapped into, and empowered, the brutal streak of these cowards.

One such creature was the very drunk member of the Gestapo seen in a bar with a beer mat attached to his tunic, on which he had scrawled ‘1,000’ in red ink. ‘I’m celebrating the thousandth shot in the neck,’ he slurred. He added that he’d shoot his own father if he was ordered to.

But it became increasingly clear to those in charge that new methods would have to be found before the larger project of killing all European Jews could be realised.

The scene was set for the next stage of industrialised mass murder — extermination camps.

In the autumn of 1941, trials began with carbon monoxide gas.

A vehicle resembling a furniture-removal truck was developed, into whose air-tight interior exhaust gases could be fed.

But the technical breakthrough came when the commandant at Auschwitz experimented on Russian PoWs with the pesticide gas Zyklon B.

The Holocaust was underway. From now on, the fate of millions of men, women and children belched and burned from tall chimneys.

But to what extent did the outside world realise what was happening — and could more have been done to stop it?

This has been fiercely debated ever since the full horrors of the Holocaust were uncovered in the last months of war.

Britain and the U.S. are too often portrayed as having failed in their moral duty — guilty of not bombing extermination camps and guilty of not airdropping arms so the imprisoned Jews could fight back.

But the reality of what was happening on the far side of Europe was not obvious at the time. The Third Reich’s extermination policy was camouflaged with euphemisms and shrouded in secrecy.

Any murderous orders not conveyed by word of mouth were read and then burned.

Nonetheless, units operating in the field made regular radio reports of their activities in a code that was broken by British cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park.

But since only a percentage of messages could ever be intercepted and decoded, the picture that emerged was patchy.

Besides, for those brought up with a post-Enlightenment belief in human progress, it was a giant emotional and intellectual step to get from these discreet facts to grasping that a civilised European country had reverted — with the aid of modern technologies — to wiping out an entire race.

There were other problems, too, in analysing the material picked up by the code-breakers. While there was plenty of evidence of massacres, the victims were vaguely referred to as Bolsheviks, plunderers, partisans and so forth, rather than Jews. On the face of it, they did not add up to genocide.

Based on intelligence from Bletchley, Churchill broadcast to the British people in August 1941 stating what was known — that, as Hitler’s armies advanced through the Soviet Union, ‘whole districts are being exterminated. Scores of thousands of executions in

cold blood are being perpetrated by German police-troops upon Russian patriots. . .’.

Many Jewish historians are exercised that he did not specifically mention that most of the victims were Jews. They also complain that the attention he gave to the dire circumstances of Jews throughout the war was intermittent to the point of indifference.

Some even believe that the Allies were colluding with Hitler because of an allegedly pervasive anti-Semitism, an insinuation first made by David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister.

But the harsh truth is that Allied policy had one priority — to defeat Nazi Germany. Nothing could be allowed to divert resources from that absolute aim.

Even when the first concrete reports emerged of a co-ordinated Nazi extermination policy, the U.S. State Department made it clear that there would be no deviation from this central purpose. ‘Whether the number of dead amounts to tens of thousands, or, as these reports state, to millions is not material to the main problem, which is the winning of the war,’ it said emphatically. ‘Other considerations must be subordinate thereto.’

The evidence continued to mount of the evil the Nazis were perpetrating. In addition to intelligence intercepts, another trickle of information came from organisations such as the Jewish Agency and the World Jewish Congress.

Based in neutral Switzerland, they collated reports from across Nazi-occupied Europe and relayed them to Jerusalem, London and New York.

In mid-1942, a Polish underground group got a message to their governmentin-exile in London that 700,000 Jews had been killed there between June 1941 and April 1942. This led to the first article on German mass murders of Jews to appear in any British newspaper. On June 25, a Daily Telegraph headline declared: ‘Germans murder 700,000 Jews in Poland’. A few days later, the Daily Mail reported, ‘Greatest pogrom — one million Jews die’.

By the following month, there was testimony that these killings were being centrally orchestrated by the German authorities when a dissident German industrialist reported to a contact in Geneva that the Nazis intended to kill all the Jews in Europe.

In November, a hundred or so Jewish prisoners were exchanged for Germans interned by the Allies. Their stories shattered any illusions that a continentwide atrocity was not underway.

That month, too, one of the most courageous men of the war, Polish underground courier Jan Karski, travelled across Occupied Europe with a precious key in his pocket. Welded inside it was the microfilmed testimony of two Jewish leaders, smuggled out from the Warsaw ghetto, about the horrors happening there.

Karski also had his own eyewitness information, obtained when he took the enormous risk of donning a guard’s uniform and slipping in disguise into a holding camp for Jews. They were being marshalled there before being sent by train to camps with gas chambers, such as Sobibor and Treblinka.

One of the Warsaw ghetto leaders whose testimony he brought back told him: ‘I know the English. When you describe to them what is happening to the Jews, they will probably not believe you.’ It was an accurate prediction.

When Karski’s report was given to leading British civil servants and politicians, including the Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, they seemed more interested in the heroic details of his escape than in what he had to tell them.

Nonetheless, on December 17, 1942, an international declaration condemned Nazi atrocities that had claimed the lives of ‘hundreds of thousands’ of Jews. By that time, in reality, two million Jews were dead.

But there was no reference to Auschwitz, which was regarded erroneously as a concentration camp exclusively for Christian Poles.

Besides, what could be done about it?

The two Jewish underground leaders who spoke to Karski wanted the Allies to add stopping the killing of the Jews to their stated war aims.

They also suggested issuing a public warning to the German people that they would be held collectively responsible for what was being done in their name.

If the extermination still did not stop, there should be retaliatory bombing of German targets in Poland and the execution of any self-proclaimed Nazis held by the Allies.

But the RAF pointed out that the extreme distances meant bombers would have to carry so much fuel they would be able to deliver only a token payload. As for reprisals against German PoWs, this would not only violate international law but lead to retaliation against British PoWs.

With direct action ruled out, all that was left were increasingly threatening warnings. In March 1944, the Foreign Secretary rose in the Commons to express the British people’s ‘ detestation of Germany’s crimes’.

Vile: At least two million Jews were killed at close range before the death camps

Vile: At least two million Jews were killed at close range before the death camps

Churchill instructed that anyone associated with such murders should be tracked down, tried and executed.

Meanwhile, two remarkable escapees from Auschwitz were on their way to the West with the first inside account. Their report reached London in July 1944.

Armchair moralists continue to condemn the Allies for inaction after this. But they ignore the practical difficulties and the extremely remote prospect of success — largely because a raid might only have killed those it was intended to save.

And by 1944, the Allies’ priority was their biggest military gamble of the entire war — establishing a foothold in France. Ahead of D-Day, Bomber Command was fully occupied trying to wreck the rail network of northern France to stop German reinforcements arriving. After D-Day, it had a crucial job giving air support to the troops on the ground.

The RAF had developed expertise in low-level attacks using the new, fast and astonishingly versatile Mosquito aircraft. In February 1944, a sortie mounted at the request of the French resistance smashed the walls of the Gestapo prison at Amiens.

The outcome was not good. One hundred prisoners were killed during the raid, and most of those who escaped were recaptured and shot.

Could a Mosquito force have undertaken such an operation against Auschwitz, 750 miles further away? Some argue this would have been morally important even if it had not succeeded. The air crew who would have died might have begged to differ.

In July 1944, with evidence emerging that Jews were being deported in vast numbers from Hungary, the accused of culpable negligence for not performing an operation that would almost certainly have ended in disaster, yet the Soviets have received a pass for their failure to make the slightest effort to destroy gas chambers that were in easy reach.

One thing the Soviets couldn’t claim was an inability to get their heads round what was happening. The Holocaust would not have caused Stalin and his associates any difficulties of comprehension. They tortured and murdered people all the time.

They knew all about concentration camps, since, in their own gulags, they operated the largest camp system in the world at the time and had the equivalent of major urban populations behind barbed wire.

They were also familiar with deporting entire ethnic groups, as the Chechens, Crimean Tartars, Poles and Volga Germans discovered. They also persecuted people for their religious beliefs, as well as for their class or nationality.

An inordinate amount of criticism has been focused on the Western Allies for not doing anything about the extermination camps, yet there has been a remarkable dearth of books about the Soviets’ inaction.

Every study of the Allies’ response to the Holocaust either omits the Soviet Union entirely or appends the Soviets as an afterthought, even though a third of the USSR’s five million Jews perished at Nazi hands.

No one seems to ask why Stalin did not use his huge air force to bomb the camps or drop paratroops who would have made short work of the SS men running the death camps. If there are sins of omission to be accounted for, then here may well be where the blame truly lies.

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