The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Discussions on the Holocaust and 20th Century War Crimes. Note that Holocaust denial is not allowed. Hosted by David Thompson.
JamesL
Member
Posts: 1647
Joined: 28 Oct 2004 00:03
Location: NJ USA

Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by JamesL » 16 May 2011 15:35

CBS radio correspondent William Shirer heard about the 'mercy killings' on September 21, 1940. He did not have confirmation from other sources so he decided he 'must look into this story.'

On November 25, 1940 he wrote that "The Gestapo, with the knowledge and approval of the German government, is systematically putting to death the mentally deficient population of the Reich...The origin of this peculiar Nazi practice goes back to last summer after the fall of France, when certain radical Nazis put the idea up to Hitler." Also "poison gases may have been used."

The Nazis censored the comments of reporters. Occasionally they would not let Shirer and his cohorts speak on the radio. Some reporters were 'encouraged' to leave Germany.

Shirer also mentions that priests and ministers were arrested in 1938 for speaking out against the Nazis.

Source: BERLIN DIARY, William Shirer, pp. 512, 569-575.

little grey rabbit
Member
Posts: 745
Joined: 12 Mar 2010 04:26

Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by little grey rabbit » 29 Aug 2011 13:10

I have put all of William Shirer's text on this matter online

http://madness-visible.blogspot.com/201 ... mercy.html
Berlin, September 21 1940

X came up to my room in the Adlon to-day, and after we had disconnected my telephone and made sure that no one as listening through the crack of the door to the next room he told me a weird story. He says the Gestapo is now systematically bumping off the mentally deficient people of the Reich. The Nazis call them "mercy deaths". He relates that Pastor Bodelschwingh, who runs a large hospital for various kinds of feeble-mined children at Bethel was ordered to be arrested a few days ago because he refused to deliver up some of his more serious mental cases to the secret police. Shortly after this, his hospital is bombed. By the "British". Must look into this story.
There is something about the Bethel hospital bombing on page 378 of Germany and the Second World War, Volume 9 by the West German Military History Research office.
The death of twelve handicapped children, who on 18/19 September 1940 were victim to a British bomb that fell certainly by chance on the children's hospital in Bethel near Bielesfeld, was on the orders of Joseph Goebbels denounced at home and abroad as a particularly gruesome act of terror by the 'murderous British fire-raisers.' And this at a time when in the Reich the undertaking code-named T-4, involving the mass murder of tens of thousands of the mentally ill and physically handicapped - ordered by Hitler and disguised as 'euthanasia' - had long been going on apace in hospitals just like the one at Bethel. When anyone handicapped fell victim to a British bomb this provided the Nazi propaganda machine with a welcome means of branding the air raids as acts of terror committed against the defenceless, the old, and the sick, and against children, and of achieving the appropriate political effect. A further example was the propaganda lie of the 'murder of the Freiburg children': on 10 May 1940, three of the Luftwaffe's own Heinkel bombers accidently dropped bombs on the town, killing fifty-seven persons including twenty-two children. Goebbels blamed British and French pilots for having deliberately carried out the raid, and the spread the false story of the 'murder of the Freiburg children' throughout Europe so as to set opinion in the neutral countries against those in charge of the British air war.
Ironic that Goebbels should use the death of handicapped children as an atrocity story. Equally ironic that a western journalist was first contacted about euthanasia in order to promote the (I assume) false claim that the Nazis had deliberately bombed their own hospital.

Oh the tangled webs we weave...

The Black Rabbit of Inlé
Member
Posts: 133
Joined: 10 Mar 2011 20:12

Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by The Black Rabbit of Inlé » 30 Aug 2011 21:12

A special air valve is inserted into the prisoner's anus, and the guard them pumps air into his victim.
Another horrific gassing story there.

I notice The Nazi New Order in Poland was published by Victor Gollancz, that would be the same Victor Gollancz, the British Jew who predicted on Christmas Day 1942:
... within a very few months these six million Jews will all be dead
http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=ho-f ... CC8Q6AEwAQ

murx
Member
Posts: 647
Joined: 23 May 2010 20:44

Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by murx » 24 Nov 2011 12:16

Paul Popenoe, 1918.

From "War against the weak": The most commonly suggested method of eugenicide in America was a "lethal chamber" or public locally operated gas chambers. In 1918, Popenoe, the Army venereal disease specialist during World War I, co-wrote the widely used textbook, Applied Eugenics, which argued, "From an historical point of view, the first method which presents itself is execution… Its value in keeping up the standard of the race should not be underestimated." Applied Eugenics also devoted a chapter to "Lethal Selection," which operated "through the destruction of the individual by some adverse feature of the environment, such as excessive cold, or bacteria, or by bodily deficiency."

http://hnn.us/articles/1796.html

little grey rabbit
Member
Posts: 745
Joined: 12 Mar 2010 04:26

Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by little grey rabbit » 21 Dec 2011 11:00

For those interested in this issue, there is an early-ish report from a Jewish widow, Lily Offenbach, in September 1941

http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/doc ... ge_id=2205

She seems to have read Shirer's account published earlier that year which included a series of death notices he saw as suspicious.
I have never seen death notes in the paper of the kind Schirer reprints, but I think the reason is that the Jews are not allowed to put any advertisements of any kind in the newspapers, and my friends were either Jewish, or very poor.

There was also another kind of "Mercy" killing. Its victims were those heavily wounded soldiers for whom the State would have had to care for all their lives. A doctor told me of such a case when a friend of hers was called by her husband to the hospital where he was a patient. He was very upset saying he had been brought into a ward where every night one of his fellow patients had died. He implored his wife to take him out of the hospital and to take him home as he felt he had not realized up until then that he was dangerously ill. His wife used her influence and money and they allowed her to take him home, but not before she had signed a declaration that neither she nor her husband would claim any support in future from the Reich.

little grey rabbit
Member
Posts: 745
Joined: 12 Mar 2010 04:26

Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by little grey rabbit » 20 Jan 2012 12:01

There is New York Times article from 1999 that has a lot of information regarding the early genesis of the Euthanasia story, not always specifying gas chambers

http://www.nytimes.com/1999/07/29/us/us ... wanted=all
U.S. Knew Early of Nazi Killings in Asylums, Official Documents Show
By DAVID STOUT
Published: July 29, 1999

Sign In to E-Mail
Print

The diplomats at the American consulate in Leipzig, Germany, noticed a lot of strange death notices in the local newspapers in the fall of 1940. Some of the deceased were old, some not so old, but their deaths had something in common.

They died at the Grafeneck asylum, an institution in Wurttemberg in southwestern Germany for people who were mentally feeble from age or war, or who had been born severely retarded or grotesquely malformed. And their relatives were not notified of their deaths until the remains had been cremated.

A death notice placed by a woman honoring her father, winner of an Iron Cross in World War I, was typical: ''After weeks of uncertainty, I received the unbelievable news of his sudden death and cremation.''

The Americans asked their German acquaintances what was happening. The Germans said they believed that the Third Reich was killing people it deemed useless. On Oct. 16, 1940, Vice Consul Paul H. Dutko cabled that information to his superiors at the American Embassy in Berlin and the State Department in Washington.

From the vantage point of the present, of course, there is nothing surprising about Mr. Dutko's cable. But many historians have assumed that the first hard evidence of Germany's ''euthanasia'' program, which killed thousands of people and was a precursor to the Holocaust, did not surface in the West until mid-1941, when it was described in William L. Shirer's ''Berlin Diary.''

Now researchers at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an educational and research organization in Los Angeles, have come upon documents, including Mr. Dutko's cable, which seem to show that high American officials knew, or should have known, about the killings by late 1940, if not before. Some of the material hints at the coming of the Holocaust itself.

Did a difference of a half-year or so really matter? Yes, argues the Wiesenthal Center's founder, Rabbi Marvin Hier. If high American officials had condemned the killing as soon as they learned of it, Rabbi Hier said, ''thousands of lives would have been saved.''

In interviews last week, Rabbi Hier said his researchers found the recently declassified documents in the National Archives and in State Department files while looking for data on the Nazis' treatment of slave labor.

One previously undisclosed document was a 10-page letter that the Evangelical bishop of Wurttemberg, Theophil Wurm, wrote on July 10, 1940, to the Reich Interior Ministry.

''The decision as to the time when the life of a suffering human being should end rests with the Almighty God,'' the Bishop admonished, expressing dismay at the euthanasia rumors he had heard.

A copy of the letter was obtained by Vice Consul Dutko early in 1941 and forwarded to his superiors, who apparently shelved it.


In August 1941, a prominent Roman Catholic Bishop, Clemens August Graf von Galen, delivered a sermon against euthanasia. Germans learned of the sermon by word of mouth, and Hitler was so worried about losing popular support, the rabbi said, that he called off the killing of Germans who were deemed inferior or useless.

Rabbi Hier argued that international condemnation of the domestic-killing program at its early stage could have saved lives. Perhaps public opinion might have turned against Hitler at home. Perhaps the full-scale Holocaust might have been delayed, and people everywhere might have recognized the reality of it earlier. Millions still might have died, he conceded, but hundreds of thousands might not have.

Many Americans were slow to accept reports of the wholesale slaughter of Jews and others in countries under Nazi control. As late as January 1943, fewer than half of those surveyed in a Gallup Poll believed reports that as many as two million European Jews had been killed. By then, the Holocaust had been under way for many months.

Geoffrey C. Ward, a historian who has written extensively on the Roosevelt era, said he doubted that early publicity about and condemnation of the killing of Germans deemed inferior would have made a difference, at least in the United States.

''Sad as it is,'' Mr. Ward said, the American people at that time would not have been willing to go to war to save the lives of Germans in asylums.

Vice Consul Dutko cabled his superiors in October 1940 of ''fantastic and gruesome'' stories from German civilians, stories of army trucks entering and leaving Grafeneck in the dead of night, of soldiers shooing away the curious. The local residents believed that some patients at Grafeneck were being used as guinea pigs for medical experiments and then killed. Other patients were regarded as useless, even for laboratory tests, the residents said, and were being killed outright.

Some Germans said doctors and nurses had whispered rumors about similar killings elsewhere in the country, some by electrocution.

''Our government is murdering masses of the spiritually ill and other sick persons in experimental stations with poison gas,'' read a letter from a nurse that reached the American Embassy in Berlin in 1941.

Rabbi Hier, like others who have studied the Holocaust and American attitudes toward Nazi Germany before the United States entered World War II, condemned the State Department's inaction. Some historians have said the State Department of that era was at best lukewarm to Jewish interests, at worst blatantly anti-Semitic.

Rabbi Hier did not blame Roosevelt directly for the United States' slowness to react. The President, after all, was trying to help Britain in 1940 and 1941 without stirring up his isolationist enemies and without getting his country into a war before it was ready. The rabbi said he had found no documents proving that Roosevelt knew the extent of his State Department's sloth.

William J. vanden Heuvel, president of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute and a former deputy permanent representative of the United States to the United Nations, differed with Rabbi Hier's assertions while calling them impossible to disprove.

Mr. vanden Heuvel said he believed that ''winning the war was the only way to stop Hitler,'' and that the Nazis demonstrated repeatedly that they were ''not at all susceptible to public opinion.'' He noted that Roosevelt was one of the earliest world leaders to denounce Hitler.

Condemning the anti-Jewish rampage of Kristallnacht in November 1938, the President said, ''I myself could scarcely believe that such things could occur in a 20th-century civilization.''

Among the earliest documents discovered by Rabbi Hier's researchers was a Feb. 23, 1940, memorandum to Secretary of State Cordell Hull from Assistant Secretary Adolf A. Berle Jr. Mr. Berle told of reports from the embassy in Berlin that Jews were being sent to ''unnamed concentration camps'' in Poland.

''I see no reason why we should not make our feelings known regarding a policy of seemingly calculated cruelty which is beginning to be apparent now,'' Mr. Berle said. (It was not yet known that the camps would soon be extermination centers.)

One of Mr. Berle's colleagues, Assistant Secretary Breckinridge Long, wrote that he was ''thoroughly in sympathy with the sentiment'' in Mr. Berle's memorandum. But, he went on, ''this is a question entirely within the power of Germany,'' and he warned against any action that might involve the United States in the war in Europe.

The War Department, too, obtained information about the killings in Germany. In December 1940, it received a letter, originally sent in German to the National Broadcasting Company and just found by Rabbi Hier's staff, in which the writer said that ''thousands of patients are secretly murdered monthly, not only those who are public wards but also the paying inmates.''

The rabbi said it was not known how high in the department the letter went before it was shelved.

Rabbi Hier said there were few heroes in the whole sad episode, except for people like the anonymous German nurse and the person who wrote to NBC in December 1940, risking their lives.

''With your expressions of horror prevent further murders!'' the letter to NBC said. It was signed, ''a Christian who cannot bear to witness this any longer.''


Just to go through the things I highlighted in order. The account of Dutko, American consul in Liepzig, sounds very similar to the account of William Shirer, if I recall correctly the death notice is identical or near identical. The reporter who wrote this article states that this was nine months before William Shirer's account appeared in print - but it seems to have happened very close to the time that Shirer states that it happened in his diary. It would not be unreasonable to think that there was a connection between the approach to William Shirer and the approach to Dutko.

The letter of Bishop Wurms was well known long before this article/research (it is amongst other things a Nuremberg document). It seems to have been passed around the country rather like the van Galen sermon was to be. From a pdf on Euthanasia sources prepared by the Landsarchiv of Baden-Wurttemburg it states
Wurms Schreiben vom 19. Juli 1940 an den Reichsinnenminister Dr. Frick sollte in kürzester Zeit in ganz Deutschland berühmt werden.24 Ohne sein Zutun verbreitete sich dieses Schreiben unter der Hand in Windeseile und wurde in maschinengeschriebenen Durchschlägen oder auch handgeschrieben als Katakombenbrief weitergereicht. Diese Verbreitungsmethode macht deutlich, dass es nur noch unter Ausschluss der Öffentlichkeit möglich war, die Wahrheit zu verbreiten.
Accounts of soldiers shooting away the curious and other details suggest that there was a wider repertoire of rumour than we often hear today. The source material would be fascinating.

Anyway, Grafeneck seems to have been very much first cab off the rank in regards to gassing reaching Western attention. It would be interesting to learn more about resistance groups in Baden-Wurttemburg that were (courageously) pushing it.

Jonathan Harrison
Member
Posts: 173
Joined: 24 Sep 2007 14:29
Location: USA

Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by Jonathan Harrison » 20 Jan 2012 15:36

I cited that source in 2009:

http://holocaustcontroversies.blogspot. ... nasia.html

You neglected to highlight this, which relates directly to the OP:
''Our government is murdering masses of the spiritually ill and other sick persons in experimental stations with poison gas,'' read a letter from a nurse that reached the American Embassy in Berlin in 1941.

michael mills
Member
Posts: 8819
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 12:42
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by michael mills » 21 Jan 2012 01:46

''Our government is murdering masses of the spiritually ill and other sick persons in experimental stations with poison gas,'' read a letter from a nurse that reached the American Embassy in Berlin in 1941.
The term "spiritually ill" is an obvious mistranslation of the German "geisteskrank", which means "mentally ill".
Among the earliest documents discovered by Rabbi Hier's researchers was a Feb. 23, 1940, memorandum to Secretary of State Cordell Hull from Assistant Secretary Adolf A. Berle Jr. Mr. Berle told of reports from the embassy in Berlin that Jews were being sent to ''unnamed concentration camps'' in Poland.
The reports almost certainly referred to the deportation of Jews from Vienna to the Nisko "reservation" in late 1939. The "reservation" was not a concentration camp. The idea was to push the Jews across the demarcation line into the Soviet Zone of Occupation. Some were, but most were eventually returned to Vienna.

There was no real connection between the Nisko "reservation" and the later extermination camps.

Jonathan Harrison
Member
Posts: 173
Joined: 24 Sep 2007 14:29
Location: USA

Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by Jonathan Harrison » 23 Jan 2012 19:39

True but there was also a forced labor component to the scheme, and it's possible that the Americans conflated KL with the ZAL which did exist near Nisko and which used its deportees.

little grey rabbit
Member
Posts: 745
Joined: 12 Mar 2010 04:26

Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by little grey rabbit » 06 Feb 2012 07:02

I asked on this forum once if the question of Euthanasia ever appeared in the Meldungen aus dem Reich and if not, why not. I can't seem to find the thread where I did this, so I will add some information to it here, as it has some relevance to this subject.

The material comes from Marlis Steinert's "Hitler's War and the Germans" page 83
Excerpts of Galen's pastoral letter were added as appendix to the September 22 "Meldungen aus dem Reich." This was the first time SD reports indirectly took up the topic of euthanasia. Only on January 15, 1942, in a comprehensive report dealing with public reaction to the film "I accuse," which had examined the problem of medical mercy killing, was the matter gone into more closely. At this stage the program had already been severely curtailed, if not completely halted. This reticence is all the more apparent since accounts of all other factors affecting morale were rendered. [emphasis mine] From jurists' reports we know of the alarm in many parts of the Reich during the summer and fall of 1941, aggravated considerably by the Bishop of Muenster's sermon. The press, on the other hand, was prohibited from broaching the subject. It is, therefore, always possible that instructions existed not to mention it in the "Meldungen" either, for they also reached a wider reading audience; perhaps special reports were prepared as secret Reich business for a very small group and then destroyed. But since the problem had been so widely discussed, a solution was found within the context of thee film, permitting an observation "that generally the implementation of euthanasia is endorsed." If this had truly been the case, then why the secrecy? Goebbels had similarly remained silent, with one exception, and reviews of the film "I accuse" were blocked for a while. Finally the film could be mentioned, but wihtout commenting either positively or negatively on euthanasia per se.
Surely the statement "euthanasia is generally approved" applied only to the public opinions regarding the case of medical mercy killing depicted in the film "I Accuse" (which I am sure was a real tear-jerker), rather than a general approbation of Hartheim et al? After all generally euthanasia - of a rational limited sort - is widely approved today in principle.

The Appendix of September 1941 is contained in BA R58/164 (I assume the sermon is not mentioned in the main text of the report?)
The February 1942 appearance is given reference: Boberach, pp 207-211.

I would love to read those pages, if any kind person had access to Boberach's Meldungen aus Dem Reich and could put them on the internet. Not really expecting it, but no harm in asking.

little grey rabbit
Member
Posts: 745
Joined: 12 Mar 2010 04:26

Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by little grey rabbit » 11 Jun 2013 08:25

In Harry Flannery's memoir "Assignment to Berlin" pages 110 -113 there are additional mentions - not of gas chambers - but of Nazis bombing hospitals to kill invalids. Leipzig and death notices get a mention also. Flannery was the successor of Shirer, so its not clear how much he is just trying to back up his fellow employee and how much he had genuine information himself
My broadcast of December 11 included the High Command claim of damage done to a nursing home in southwestern Germany by British bombers. I wondered, in the light of later revelations, whether Hitler had this in mind when he said in his last speech: "Hospitals have been one of the favourite objectives of the British." In any case I learned that the Nazis were carrying out their murder of the insane, crippled, hopelessly ill, and even aged by bombing some of the institutions in which these people were confined and blaming the British for it. Since it was the very buildings in which these people were held that were destroyed, along with their inmates, the evidence was plain. Later, since people were bound to become suspicious of too many peculiar coincidences, the Nazis changed their tactics and arranged more subtle murders by injecting slow poisons into the veins of the poor helpless people. Then they sent a letter to the immediate family telling them that death had come to the victims, but that in view of the incurable nature of the affliction it might be considered a merciful release. The body, they said (to prevent incriminating investigation), had been cremated and the ashes were being sent.
Only the immediate relatives had any knowledge of these cruel murders, and even they did not realize the truth in many instances, since the Nazis carried out the plan in careful secrecy. It was discovered only when a young man in Leipzig became suspicious of some of the death notices in the papers there - notices that were undoubtedly being printed in other papers, too but had not attracted attention elsewhere. German families who can afford it insert small one-and-a-half inch notices in their local papers reporting the deaths of their loved ones. The young man in Leipzig, looking over these notices, was struck by the frequent recurrence of the peculiar phrase: "After weeks of uncertainty we received the unbelievable news of his death and cremation." He called on some of the families and found that the dead person in each case had been confined in an institution and that the death notifications were all identical. The evidence was clear, especially since the Nazis later ordered that such phrases be omitted from death notices, but all the Nazi officials to whom I talked denied that any such murders had taken place.

There was no doubt of the facts, however. Some people even told me of being forbidden even to drive near these institutions; they were turned back by armed guards. It was all according to merciless Nazi logic, which sees no man as important except in so far as he can serve the State. It is fundamental Nazism that the individual is of no consequence as such, that he is entirely subservient to the State, which is supreme. No man, therefore, who cannot and does not do his part for the State has a right to live. If he is insane, incurably ill, crippled, or aged he is a burden on the State, a wasteful cost, occupying a building that could be put to productive use.

One day I was leafing through a book called Hitler Germany, by Cesare Santaro, a Nazi sympathizer, I came upon this passage:
"German statistics estimate at about 400,000 the number of persons who ought to be sterilized. the various categories of hereditarily transmitted diseases from which these persons suffer are given as follows:
Congenital feeble-mindedness, 200,00;
Schizophrenia or dementia praecox, 80,000;
Maniacal depressive dementia 20,000;
Epilepsy 60,000;
Chorea, 600;
Congenital deafness, 16,000;
Serious physical deformities, 20,000;
Hereditary alcoholism, 10,000; [that might catch a few of us out]
Santaro went on to remark that the law passed in 1935 for sterilization and for the castration of sexual criminals stressed in its preamble, "the expenditure incurred by the State for the maintenance of asocial, degenerate, and incurably diseased persons" At the bottom of the page there was a footnote. It said that Germany in 1936 had 602 homes for cripples, general paralytics, insane and inebriates, and pointed out that the number of aged and infirm person totalled 713,571.
This book had been written several years before. It was then 1940. Nazi Germany, which preached the survival of the fittest had taken the next step from sterilization to murder.
Flannery then goes on to say the Nazis were also encouraging flamboyant sexual immorality and the birth of children out of wedlock.

I presume these death notices from Leipzig existed - has anyone seen them referenced anywhere. Has a historian chased them down at some point?

User avatar
Marcus
Member
Posts: 33940
Joined: 08 Mar 2002 22:35
Location: Europe

Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by Marcus » 11 Jun 2013 16:42

Two posts were split off into a new thread entitled "Ley and monopoly on rubber goods?".

/Marcus

User avatar
Ponury
Member
Posts: 254
Joined: 07 Jan 2006 20:38
Location: Gdansk/Danzig in Poland!

Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by Ponury » 21 Jun 2013 19:07

Our polish fighter too...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Karski

Return to “Holocaust & 20th Century War Crimes”