Dachau/Bergen-Belsen/Majdanek Guards after Liberation

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Re: Dachau/Bergen-Belsen/Majdanek Guards after Liberation

Post by Totenkomf » 21 Apr 2022 15:54

gebhk wrote:
21 Apr 2022 15:13
I have to ask and please don't be offended, how many Soviet photos and personal accounts of the liberation of Majdanek have you to compare? How do they compare in terms of reliability? I appreciate fully that we are in the realms of proving a negative, which is impossible. However, not being able to prove something and it never happening are not the same thing. This is something you need to establish before you start speculating on 'differences in national characteristics'

You also need to take into account the very different circumstances of each liberation. Dachau was captured after combat with the remaining guards, by frontline troops, who were greeted in the heat of battle by a chaotic house of horrors - over 30K strving victims, unburied bodies, trainloads of rotting corpses, etc. Even larger numbers of starving prosoners and even more chaotic scenes of horror met the Anglo/Canadian and American troops who entered Belsen, however the handover of Belsen was an orderly affair governed by a local ceasefire. Very few SS remianed and the Hunhgarian and WH German troops who largely took over maintainbing order continued to do so for a few days after the handover to the Allies before bing returned to German lines. AFAIK only the commandant, Kramer, was arrested on the spot. Even so, something like 170 'kapos' were murdered by other inmates in one of the satellite camps.

When it comes to Majdanek, it is difficult to even talk of a 'liberation'. The German operation was virtually liquidated by the time the Soviets arrived. The grounds had been essentailly tidied up and, while the erasure had not been completed to the extent that had been hoped for due to the unexpectedly rapid rate of advance of the Soviet armies, there was none of the hoirrific and macabre chaos that met the liberators of Dachau and Belsen. While, no doubt, the prisoners had their tales to tell, there were a mere 480 of them on site - mainly the sick, invalids and Polish peasants uprooted in the 'pacification' campaigns against partisans in the local countryside. Very few staff were there. Within two weeks the camp was back in business, now run by the NKVD, its dietary and hygienic conditions allegedly even worse than they had been under the previous German administration. Bitterly ironically, a number of former inmates of German concentration and extermination camps found themselves there.

I would suggest that even if it is true (and that is a big 'if', I would suggest) the vastly different circumstances and processes of the liberations that took place, are more than enough explanation without having to reach for 'personality traits' of the various forces involved.
Well there isn't really any evidence that Soviets did kill camp guards instead there evidence that Americans and Inmates killed guards at Dachau.

But aren't national characteristics variable; people from other nations act differently.

Let's get some numbers right:

Bergen-Belsen had around 60,000 prisoners still at the camp during the Liberation, and thousands of dead prisoners laying around the camp.

Majdanek had still thousand inmates at the camp during liberation.

Photos from Majdanek:



How isn't that just as bad as in Dachau?

The question was why the British for an example didn't kill the Concentration Camp guards during liberation?
But didn't the Dachau SS also surrender and didn't fight back-

I also never understood why the Americans had such a need to kill SS Guards or Kapos at Dachau. Yes- the Camp was pure horror for the G.I's but I would't start to kill any surrendered SS 'Trooper' who came to my path.
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Re: Dachau/Bergen-Belsen/Majdanek Guards after Liberation

Post by Puck » 21 Apr 2022 16:21

Totenkomf wrote:
21 Apr 2022 15:54

Majdanek had still thousands of inmates at the camp during liberation.
This is definetly wrong: Majdanek was almost evacuated - only a about 1000 russion pow where left.

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Re: Dachau/Bergen-Belsen/Majdanek Guards after Liberation

Post by Totenkomf » 21 Apr 2022 16:30

Puck wrote:
21 Apr 2022 16:21
Totenkomf wrote:
21 Apr 2022 15:54

Majdanek had still thousands of inmates at the camp during liberation.
This is definetly wrong: Majdanek was almost evacuated - only a about 1000 russion pow where left.
Yes: I meant around thousand prisoners, not 'thousands' as I wrote in a hurry. Puck; how many corpses remained at Majdanek?

Well Belsen Camp had still more prisoners then Dachau.

The original question was again why the difference- regarding the handling of captured KZ/KL Guards as prisoners by the three Liberating Forces?
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Re: Dachau/Bergen-Belsen/Majdanek Guards after Liberation

Post by Hans1906 » 21 Apr 2022 17:32

I do not like these well known KL photos, this makes no sense at all.

Who was there, just one time, or has seen the liberation film documentaries, needs no further proof.

Already in our childhood years, we were shown all this, the movies, the photos, the dead eyes in close-up.
We grew up with all this Scheisse, my mother kept my eyes closed, when all this was on the german TV again.

I was send out of the TV room, they did not want us, to watch all this.
And we children watched, in later years hours long documentaries, endless documentaries.
In our "German" studies, the topic never ended, even in the "art" class, we painted and made own works about all this, for decades...

All this is long ago, what one can find today, that was not av. in the early 1970s, not even rudimentary.
Did we grew up ignorant, for sure not, some of us had more encounters as our parents ever.

Enough for today...


Hans
P.S. I care for many paperprints of hanged so-called "partisans" in my photo collections, you all know such photos.
I showed a few of the photos very long ago in a well known german internet forum, a mistake.
The photos caused a lot of trouble back then, I was attacked for this, it will never happen again.
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Re: Dachau/Bergen-Belsen/Majdanek Guards after Liberation

Post by Hans1906 » 21 Apr 2022 17:57

Mat,

leave me alone with your constant "quotes", and your single sentence answers, please. :x

This is a forum, not a chat!


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Re: Dachau/Bergen-Belsen/Majdanek Guards after Liberation

Post by gebhk » 21 Apr 2022 21:30

The question was why the British for an example didn't kill the Concentration Camp guards during liberation?
You can also ask the question why the Americans who took part in the liberation of Bergen-Belsen didn't kill the Concetration Camp guards during the liberation. Almost certainly, the answer lies in the different circumstances of the liberation. In B-B there was an orderly handover with the area of the camp designated a neutral zone for the duration of the handover and there were very few SS guards to kill, even if the liberators had chosen to do so, because most were allowed to leave before the Allied troops entered. Indeed, AFAIK, only the camp commandant (who had chosen to remain) was arrested. At the same time, since the British had inadequate manpower to control the camp, the Hungarian and SS were allowed to remain in charge initially and the perimeter was guarded by regular German and Hungarian troops, so the outnumbered Allied troops must have been aware that starting a mass shooting was likely to have very bad consequences for them.

This is an entirely different situation to the one in Dachau where frontline troops, with twitchy fingers because they had been fired upon, were guarding presumed hostile prisoners under combat conditions. Allegedly, one of the surrendering SS guards came down from the gate tower with a pistol concealed behind his back with, presumably, evil intent. At most one can talk about poor fire discipline - that certainly seems to have played a part in the shootings in the coal yard. However, an argument on this basis that this is somehow a 'personality trait' of American soldiers I find dubious. I would suggest that, given the lack of a suitable comparison in the BB liberation, there is not much evidence for such a view. Personally, I find putting this down to the universal human condition, that nervous soldiers in a confused situation who are not closely supervised by their officers are more likely to shoot first and ask questions later, a lot more convincing.
But didn't the Dachau SS also surrender and didn't fight back.
A number of US personal accounts contradict this, stating that they had been fired upon with hand weapons and machine guns (eg the Guard Tower incident).

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Re: Dachau/Bergen-Belsen/Majdanek Guards after Liberation

Post by gebhk » 21 Apr 2022 21:36

Majdanek had still thousand inmates at the camp during liberation.
Polish sources I have looked at, say 480 or less than 500 or 1000. My suspision is that this depends on whether you count the POWs in or not (the word 'prisoner' is not used in relation to POWs in Polish). Be that as it may, I guess the more important question is how many guards were left. 4 guards and 2 kapos were put on trial in the first Majdanek trial (Nov-Dec 1944) - and it would seem from some accounts (albeit I am far from certain of this) that this was the sum total that was captured alive during the (somewhat short-lasting) liberation of the camp.
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Re: Dachau/Bergen-Belsen/Majdanek Guards after Liberation

Post by David Thompson » 22 Apr 2022 05:07

An assortment of posts from Totenkomf, containing personal remarks about other members, were removed pursuant to the forum and section rules.

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Re: Dachau/Bergen-Belsen/Majdanek Guards after Liberation

Post by Totenkomf » 22 Apr 2022 06:08

David Thompson wrote:
22 Apr 2022 05:07
An assortment of posts from Totenkomf, containing personal remarks about other members, were removed pursuant to the forum and section rules.
David- I only replied to Hans1906's rude posts with those deleted ones. Didn't you also remove Hans1906's posts?.

As Hans1906 is seemingly always has some problem with me.
Polish sources I have looked at, say 480 or less than 500 or 1000. My suspision is that this depends on whether you count the POWs in or not. Be that as it may, I guess the most important question is how many guards were left. 4 guards and 2 kapos were put on trial in the first Majdanek trial (Nov-Dec 1944) - and it would seem (albeit I am far from certain) this was the sum total that was captured alive during the liberation.
It around those numbers 1000- propably. I think there wasn't many Guards remaining at Majdanek to begin with. The original question wasn't however the number of prisoners.
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Re: Dachau/Bergen-Belsen/Majdanek Guards after Liberation

Post by Totenkomf » 22 Apr 2022 06:28

gebhk wrote:
21 Apr 2022 21:30
The question was why the British for an example didn't kill the Concentration Camp guards during liberation?
This is an entirely different situation to the one in Dachau where frontline troops, with twitchy fingers because they had been fired upon, were guarding presumed hostile prisoners under combat conditions. Allegedly, one of the surrendering SS guards came down from the gate tower with a pistol concealed behind his back with, presumably, evil intent. At most one can talk about poor fire discipline - that certainly seems to have played a part in the shootings in the coal yard. However, an argument on this basis that this is somehow a 'personality trait' of American soldiers I find dubious. I would suggest that, given the lack of a suitable comparison in the BB liberation, there is not much evidence for such a view. Personally, I find putting this down to the universal human condition, that nervous soldiers in a confused situation who are not closely supervised by their officers are more likely to shoot first and ask questions later, a lot more convincing.
But didn't the Dachau SS also surrender and didn't fight back.

A number of US personal accounts contradict this, stating that they had been fired upon with hand weapons and machine guns (eg the Guard Tower incident).
gebhk - that you for your replying posts.

Why is the personality difference point so 'dubious'. Yes that Guard Tower B incident; did the SS Soldiers shoot or didn't they? but didn't the soldiers in the Coal Yard say that the German Pows tried to escape or that they moved towards the Americans?.

How are surrendering men shooting and trying to run away all of a sudden.

Didn't the Malmedy trial perpetrators from the Leibstandarte Division say that the Captured American Soldiers tried to run away or 'moved' so that's why they were shot at Malmedy (altough the SS had orders from their superior officers to kill captured Americans, as Sepp Dietrich told the officers: ("Prisoners?.. You know what to do with them").
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Re: Dachau/Bergen-Belsen/Majdanek Guards after Liberation

Post by gebhk » 22 Apr 2022 11:07

Why is the personality difference point so 'dubious'.
Two reasons:
Firstly, there are underlying behaviour patterns which are reasonably common to all humanity. Societal norms (which clearly vary between societies) can modify these to a limted extent, but under extreme stress all this societal conditioning tends to go out the window and we revert to type. The only really effective modifiers of behaviour under those circumstances are effective behavioural and psychological conditioning (in this context, fire discipline) and close supervision by individuals with a cool head and leadership skills (ie effective officers). It is notable that the shootings in the coal yard were carried out by unsupervised EMs and the arrival of an experienced officer put an immediate stop to them and there was no recurrence when NCOs were put in charge of each machine gun. It does not matter whether, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight we consider the threat these men were under imaginary, all that matters is what they felt and believed at the time. And there can be little doubt that to the men on the ground in Dachau, who believed they had been shot at and that some of the enemy were prepared to use subterfuge to kill them, the threat felt very real.

Secondly, I make no claim that differences in training and therefore behaviour between the members of different forces do not exist. Indeed, although these assumed differences are often based on somewhat dubious stereotypes, there seems to be at least some validity to the general view that there was less adherence to formal discipline in the US army than is usual. However, if these are to be considered the reason for differences in behaviour, one should be able to produce evidence that soldiers under the same conditions behaved differently (and consistently so beyond random fluctuation). In the case of the liberations of Dachau and Bergen Belsen, while the conditions were superficially similar (ie the physical condition of the camps and horrific sights as well as the sheer size of the horror) the processes by which the liberation occured could hardly have been more different. Given that there is no suggestion that the American troops who took part in the liberation of Bergen-Belsen behaved any diffferently to their British and Canadian counterparts, I would suggest there is little or no compelling evidence that national characteristics played a part in the end result. They may have, but we just don't know because the differences between the processes by which the respective liberations occurred provide more than adequate explanation for the differences in outcome.

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Re: Dachau/Bergen-Belsen/Majdanek Guards after Liberation

Post by Totenkomf » 22 Apr 2022 11:17

gebhk wrote:
22 Apr 2022 11:07
Why is the personality difference point so 'dubious'.
Two reasons:
Firstly, there are underlying behaviour patterns which are reasonably common to all humanity. Societal norms (which clearly vary between societies) can modify these to a limted extent, but under extreme stress all this societal conditioning tends to go out the window and we revert to type. The only really effective modifiers of behaviour under those circumstances are effective behavioural and psychological conditioning (in this context, fire discipline) and close supervision by individuals with a cool head and leadership skills (ie effective officers). It is notable that the shootings in the coal yard were carried out by unsupervised EMs and the arrival of an experienced officer put an immediate stop to them and there was no recurrence when NCOs were put in charge of each machine gun. It does not matter whether, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight we consider the threat these men were under imaginary, all that matters is what they felt and believed at the time. And there can be little doubt that to the men on the ground in Dachau, who believed they had been shot at and that some of the enemy were prepared to use subterfuge to kill them, the threat felt very real.

Secondly, I make no claim that differences in training and therefore behaviour between the members of different forces do not exist. Indeed, although these assumed differences are often based on somewhat dubious stereotypes, there seems to be at least some validity to the general view that there was less adherence to formal discipline in the US army than is usual. However, if these are to be considered the reason for differences in behaviour, one should be able to produce evidence that soldiers under the same conditions behaved differently (and consistently so beyond random fluctuation). In the case of the liberations of Dachau and Bergen Belsen, while the conditions were superficially similar (ie the physical condition of the camps and horrific sights as well as the sheer size of the horror) the processes by which the liberation occured could hardly have been more different. Given that there is no suggestion that the American troops who took part in the liberation of Bergen-Belsen behaved any diffferently to their British and Canadian counterparts, I would suggest there is little or no compelling evidence that national characteristics played a part in the end result. They may have, but we just don't know because the differences between the processes by which the respective liberations occurred provide more than adequate explanation for the differences in outcome.
The mentioning national characteristics wasn't the main point but a suggestion. Yes Dachau incident was young Enlisted-men getting bit off the line. What about the SS Officer who surrendered the camp; Wicker. Wasn't he allegedly killed after he surrendered to General Linden an high-ranking senior officer.
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Re: Dachau/Bergen-Belsen/Majdanek Guards after Liberation

Post by gebhk » 22 Apr 2022 13:02

Hi Totenkomf
I don't think there is anything alleged about it - there is little doubt that Wicker was killed that day - and by extension murdered, However, AFAIK, the circumstances of his death have never been satisfactorily explained. You have to bear in mind that chaos reigned. The first troops in were from 157 Regiment, 45 Inf Divsion under Lt Col Sparks. Unaware that Wicker had been persuaded to surrender the camp, Sparks, fearing heavy resistance, ordered his troops in from the railway siding direction avoiding the main gate where Wicker was awaiting him. They were the ones involved in the coalyard shooting, the boxcar shooting and other alleged shootings (nb Watchtower B and the watchtower from which a machine gun was allegedly fired were not the same tower I think, albeit far from sure).

Somewhat later, Gen Linden of 42 Division, decided to get in on the act and raced to the main gate in five jeeps packed with staff officers, photographers and war correspondents. It was Linden that met Wicker and then ordered him back into the camp to review the evidence at which point Wicker disappears from view, so to speak. Shortly thereafter, Sparks arrived at the main gate and a violent row erupted between officers of the two divisions during which Sparks lost the plot, drew his weapon and threatened to shoot Linden on the spot! Perhaps wisely, Linden chose to withdraw.

It was at this time or perhaps shortly thereafter that Wicker met his end, somewhere within the camp. An investigation suggested that a pvte 1st class gave his rifle to an inmate so that the latter could shoot Wicker. There was clearly some evidence for this theory of events because a court martial of the private was convened but terminated shortly thereafter and so the evidence was never given a proper airing or evaluation, as far as I know.

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Re: Dachau/Bergen-Belsen/Majdanek Guards after Liberation

Post by Totenkomf » 22 Apr 2022 13:17

gebhk wrote:
22 Apr 2022 13:02
Hi Totenkomf
I don't think there is anything alleged about it - there is little doubt that Wicker was killed that day - and by extension murdered, However, AFAIK, the circumstances of his death have never been satisfactorily explained. You have to bear in mind that chaos reigned. The first troops in were from 157 Regiment, 45 Inf Divsion under Lt Col Sparks. Unaware that Wicker had been persuaded to surrender the camp, Sparks, fearing heavy resistance, ordered his troops in from the railway siding direction avoiding the main gate where Wicker was awaiting him. They were the ones involved in the coalyard shooting, the boxcar shooting and other alleged shootings (nb Watchtower B and the watchtower from which a machine gun was allegedly fired were not the same tower I think, albeit far from sure).

Somewhat later, Gen Linden of 42 Division, decided to get in on the act and raced to the main gate in five jeeps packed with staff officers, photographers and war correspondents. It was Linden that met Wicker and then ordered him back into the camp to review the evidence at which point Wicker disappears from view, so to speak. Shortly thereafter, Sparks arrived at the main gate and a violent row erupted between officers of the two divisions during which Sparks lost the plot, drew his weapon and threatened to shoot Linden on the spot! Perhaps wisely, Linden chose to withdraw.

It was at this time or perhaps shortly thereafter that Wicker met his end, somewhere within the camp. An investigation suggested that a pvte 1st class gave his rifle to an inmate so that the latter could shoot Wicker. There was clearly some evidence for this theory of events because a court martial of the private was convened but terminated shortly thereafter and so the evidence was never given a proper airing or evaluation, as far as I know.
I said that it was alleged that he was shot-it has not been clearly proven. Yeah I know what happened during the liberation of Dachau- and that Lt. Col Sparks threatened to shoot Sparks with his 45. Cal after Linden reportedly hit one of Sparks men in his helmet with his Swagger-stick, and Sparks and I quote said along the lines: " If you'll touch one of my men again, I'll shoot you!".

Why would one American Pvt. give his rifle to an inmate shoot Wicker as he could do so by himself?.

And why shoot Wicker? If he committed war crimes it would have been easier to put him on trial and jail or hang him?, as he was after all an career-SS-Totenkopfverbände Soldier.

Here are the doubts regarding Wicker's death on the threads second page:

viewtopic.php?f=38&t=36603
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Re: Dachau/Bergen-Belsen/Majdanek Guards after Liberation

Post by gebhk » 22 Apr 2022 14:04

Surely the point is that it is unlikely that he was shot by, at the behest of or with the approval of gen Linden?
Why would one American Pvt. give his rifle to an inmate shoot Wicker as he could do so by himself?.
I see nothing unusual about a man empathising with a victim giving that victim the means to exact revenge.
And why shoot Wicker? If he committed war crimes it would have been easier to put him on trial and jail or hang him?, as he was after all an career-SS-Totenkopfverbände Soldier.
Sorry, but I somehow doubt that people driven to violence by extreme emotion would be dispassionately contemplating whether the object of their hatred or fear belongs to one or another class of SS and therefore whether he will or will not be put on trial and his chances of being executed if he is!.

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