Truth about hangings of convicted July 1944 defendents

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michael mills
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Post by michael mills » 16 Jul 2005 13:28

The two essential issues are:

1. Were there any legends about the hangings; and

2. If so, did they have their origin in black propaganda, perhaps including a faked photograph, disseminated by the British Legation in Switzerland.

The two presumably post-war testimonies published in the bok by Manvell and Frankel show the development of the legend of the meathooks.

The second testimony, by a cameraman involved in the fiming of the excutions, is the more sober in tone, and appears more credible than the first testimony, by a prison guard, which is full of lurid embellishment.

The cameraman states that there were eight hooks in the ceiling from which the convicts were to be hanged. He states that the upper loop of the noose was attached to the hook.

The prison warden states that there were six large hooks hung from a beam attached beneath the ceiling, and describes them as "like those butchers use to hang their meat". He also adds the lurid embellishment that Hitler himself had ordered the hooks, on the basis that he wanted his enemies hung like carcasses of meat.

So we have a progression from a more sober, credible witness who simply refers to hooks, to a more hysterical witness who refers to big hooks like meathooks and claims that Hitler himself ordered their use.

We can see here a legend building up, perhaps because the use of hooks to attach the nooses, rather than stringing the nooses over a beam or through a pullet, seems unusual.

However, from visual material that I have seen, including a Czech feature film about the hanging of "traitors" in Czechoslovakia during the Stalinist period, and an actual photograph of the hanging of Szalasi and other colaborators in Hungary immediately after the war, I am able to confirm that the normal methodology of hangings carried out by the post-war Communist governments of Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and presumably by preceding governments, was to attach the noose to a hook.

In the methodology used in both the above countries, the condemned person was not dangled from a horizontal beam, as was the normal method in Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union, but from an upright plank set into the ground and with a hook at the top to which the noose was attached.

The method of hanging was to place the condemned person on a stool or a box placed against the upright plank, with his back to it. The noose was then placed around the neck of the condemned person, and the upper loop attached to the hook in the top of the plank. The stool or box was then pushed away, causing the condemned person to drop down against the plank, pulling the noose tight.

It may be that the above methodology was derived from a methodology used in Austria, since I have seen First World War photos of Serb guerillas hanged by Austrian troops from upright beams, again with the noose attached to a hook at the top of the beam.

It appears that in the hanging of the condemned conspirators, the Austrian/Czech/Hungarian method of attaching the noose to a hook was adopted. Why that was so, and how the borrowing of that methodology came about, is unclear.

It may be that since hanging was not a normal method of legal execution in Germany there was no established methodology, and recourse was had to methods used in neighbouring countries.

In other respects, the methodology differed from the Austrian/Czech/Hungarian one in that the hooks were not attached to upright planks or beams, but rather to the ceiling. It seems to have been a combination of two different methodologies, the one of attaching the noose to a hook, and the other the American/British/Soviet method of causing the condemned person to swing freely from an overhead beam or ceiling attachment.

Whatever the way in which this methodology was arrived at, it is clear that it was not some sort of strange brutality, as the legend would have it, but rather an adaptation of normal procedures used in legal executions by hanging in other countries.

From the above methodology has been derived the legend that the hooks were actual meathooks, and that Hitler had prescribed the hooks so that the hanged men would resemble carcasses of meat.

It may be that the prison warden himself made up the lurid embellishments that the hooks were meathooks and that Hitler himself prescribed the procedure, but it is more likely that he was repeating details that he had heard elsewhere.

Thus it is quite credible that British Intelligence obtained a description of the executions, seized on the detail about the nooses being attached to hooks, and converted that detail into a legend about Hitler ordering the condemned men to be strung up on meathooks like carcasses. It is also quite credible that British Intelligence manufactured a photograph of that alleged procedure and disseminated it together with a fictionalised description through the British Legation in Switzerland.

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Post by Panzermahn » 16 Jul 2005 13:32

Michael,

Thanks for the very interesting post.

Regards
Panzermahn

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Hanging technique July 20 plotters

Post by fredric » 18 Apr 2006 07:43

The Irving assertions are ridiculous.

General Witzleben and the others were hanged using thin, possibly hemp, nooses tied in slip knots, from iron hooks attached to an overhead steel beam. The beam and some hooks are still in place today. The "piano wire noose" is a myth. Piano wire would, as one post describes, cut the neck or even sever the head. I have a photo of wire nooses, however, attached to the same beam, which was published in a booklet commemorating the executions. It could be a fake. The assertion that the executions lasted 10 hours is a myth. Each victim took about 20 minutes to die. There even is a myth that the hooks were inserted into the neck of the victims (see Shirer Berlin Diary) and that NO noose was used.

This is an area I have reseached in detail and I offer these points which I think are accurate:

1. The executioner was Wilhelm Rottger, Sharfrichter of Berlin, who hanged condemned prisoners with a "thin cord" from a hook attached to an overhead beam. His assistants lifted the victim, over whose neck the slip-knot noose was already placed, and the Rottger affixed the other looped end over the hook. The assistants then lowered the victim, the noose tightened and the victim strangled. They had full control over the force of the suspension "drop" and thus could prolong the agony. They could even lift the victim again as some writer assert was done (no proof however).

2. The Austrian "galgen" (a tall post with a slip-knot noose attached to a spike) which is referred to in other posts (the technique used by execuitoner Bogar on Szalassi and by Lang) was not used in Plotzensee or in other German prisons and has little bearing on the technique employed in Germany. The hanging technique used by Rottger, however, was referred to as "the Austrian method" which may be a joking reference to Hitler...possibly a joke by Rottger himself but I doubt it. Hitler did specify that the condemned should hang like cattle (he probably knew the hooks were already in the execution room) and wanted Rottger (with whom he met) to prolong the victims' agony.

3. Today five hooks remain in place on the beam in Plotzensee's execution shed. Originally there were eight. I have examined them closely and they are similar to those found in slaughter houses. The hooks are affixed to the beam at intervals through holes and are not on rollers as in some other prisons.

4. The hooks were NOT specifically installed for the July 20 related executions. In fact eight hooks on a steel beam were ordered to be installed in the Plotzensee execution chamber in December, 1942 at the direction of Reich Minister of Justice Otto Thierack to permit simultaneous executions by hanging. Hanging was an unusual punishment but Thierack was preparing for the multiple executions of the Red Orchestra members (although many were guillotined in the same chamber). Similar hooks can be seen in other German prisons and in Prague's Pancraz Prison. The "butcher's hooks" were not a special idea...they were used because the British-style long drop (gallows with trap door) was not used in Germany.

5. Film footage of the executions definately was taken. There are many confimations of this...see the comments by Victor Von Gostomski (Der Tod Von Plotzensee) and in Peter Hoffman's great book on the German Resistance. Hoffman interviewed Sasse, one of the cinematographers and this is the source of the on site description in another post. The whereabouts of the execution segment of the film is unknown. Personally I believe it exists but this is another subject. At least one reference is made to its existence after the War. The courtroom films of course exist and can be easily found. There is a report from none other than Speer that still photos also were taken exists (see Speer's memoires...he says he saw some photos on Hitler's table).

6. The idea that the British faked the films and photos is interesting but I cannot find a motive.

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Re: Hanging technique July 20 plotters

Post by Daniel Laurent » 23 Apr 2006 11:30

Hi Fredric,
fredric wrote:The Irving assertions are ridiculous.

As usual....
However, thanks to Michael and you for taking the pain to demonstrate that, once again.
Regards
Daniel

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Post by michael mills » 25 Apr 2006 08:07

Which assertion is ridiculous?

The statements of fact in relevant passage from Irving's book, ie that a film was made of the hangings but it has not been located since the end of the war, do not differ from the statements made by Fredric.

The only opinion voiced by Irving is that a photo fabricated by British Intelligence and published in an anti-Nazi newspaper in Switzerland was the origin of a number of post-war rumours about the hanging. That such a photo was published, and that German agents in Switzerland reported back to Berlin that the photo was a British fabrication, are not Irving's opinion but statements of fact.

Whether Irving's opinion is correct or not is a matter for debate, but Fredric has shown that were a number of post-war rumours that turned out to be unsubstantiated.

One is that the victims were hung from meathooks, ie hooks normally used for suspending carcasses in meat-processing works. In fact, as Fredric has shown, the hooks were the normal means of attaching the noose in the method of hanging used in Germany.

The important issue is to determine where this method of hanging derived from. Fredric has shown that it did not derive from Austria or Czechoslovakia.

The method of hanging without a long drop, with the victim dying from the cutting of the blood supply to the brain due to pressure on the carotid arteries rather than from destruction of the medulla caused by dislocation of the axis and the atlas vertebrae, was also used in Poland and the Soviet Union. In both cases the victims were suspended by a noose attached to a horizontal beam. It may be that Germany adopted this method of execution from either or both of those countries, based on the rationale that those who served Germany's enemies should die by a method employed by those enemies. Such a rationale could well have applied in the case of the execution of the Baum group, who were German Communists acting on behalf of the Soviet Union. Fredric has shown that the method of hanging the Wehrmacht conspirators had originally been introduced for the execution of the Baum group.

I would discount the tale that Hitler personally prescribed the method of hanging the Wehrmacht conspirators. He may well have ordered that the death sentence be carried by hanging rather than by shooting, since in his view their attempt on his life had rendered the conspirators unworthy of an honourable death. However, the methodology of hanging was already in place, and it is rather unlikely that Hitler played any role in devising that methodology, it being more likely that it was simply copied from the practices of other countries.

Another rumour relates to the time it took for the hanged men to die (similar rumours arose in the case of the hangings of the Major War Criminals sentenced to death by the International Miliatary tribunal at Nuremberg).

The fact is that the brain is extremely sensitive to hypoxia, such that when the blood flow to the head is cut off or reduced through pressure on the carotid arteries, for example by the tightness of a noose, unconsciousness ensues within seconds.

The accidental deaths of a number of high-profile victims in the course of performing self-strangulation as an erotic practice demonstrate how quickly and unexpectedly unconsciousness can supervene.

If the pressure on the carotid arteries is not released and the blood-supply to the brain remains cut off, brain death will occur within 10-15 minutes. In Poland, the regulations laid down that a hanged person should be left suspended for a minimum of 15 minutes to ensure death. But except for but a few initial seconds of that time, the victim is unconscious.

After a hanged person has lapsed into unconsciousness, in the course of the progressive shutting down of the brain functions, convulsions of the body may occur. The observation of such convulsions has led to the conclusion that the hanged person must be in agony, but in fact by the time the convulsions (and such phenomena as involuntary defecation) occur, the higher centres of the brain, in which consciousness is located, has already been destroyed.

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Post by walterkaschner » 28 May 2006 01:13

Michael Mills wrote:

Whether Irving's opinion is correct or not is a matter for debate, but Fredric has shown that were a number of post-war rumours that turned out to be unsubstantiated.

One is that the victims were hung from meathooks, ie hooks normally used for suspending carcasses in meat-processing works. In fact, as Fredric has shown, the hooks were the normal means of attaching the noose in the method of hanging used in Germany.


Perhaps this reflects a semantic ambiguity as to the precise meaning of "hung from meathooks", but there can be no question but that the method of execution involved wrapping a running cord around the victims neck and suspending the cord from a hook attached to an iron beam running across the ceiling of the execution room. As fredric states, the hooks ( at least 5 of them) are still present at Plötzensee. I've seen them and they were at least to my eyes indistinguishable from the meathooks used to suspend beef carcasses in abatoirs - which I''ve also seen.

Mr. Mills also wrote:

I would discount the tale that Hitler personally prescribed the method of hanging the Wehrmacht conspirators.


According to Kershaw, Hitler: 1936-1945 Nemesis (W.W. Norton &Co., 2000) at 693, "The normal mode of execution for civilian capital offenses in the Third Reich was beheading. But Hitler had reportedly ordered that he wanted those behind the conspiracy of 20 July 1944 'hanged, hung up like meat carcasses' ", citing Dieter Ehlers, Technik und Moral einer Verschwörung. Der Aufstand am 20. Juli 1944 (Bonn 1964) at 113: "Ich will, das sie gehängt werden, aufgehängt wie Schlachtvieh." [Also cited by our Moderator in a previous post in this thread.]

Kershaw also notes (FN 39 at 693), however, that by 1942-3 hanging had seen increasing use as a simple and cheap alternative to the guillotine, which in 1936 was ordered the standardized means of execution, citing Richard J. Evans, Rituals of Retribution: Capital Punishment in Germany 1600-1987 (Oxford, 1966) ch. 15-16 passim. Nicholas Wachsmann, in his Hitler's Prisons: Legal Terror in Nazi Germany (Yale University Press, 2004) at 316, confirms that due to the torrent of death sentences during the period 1942-45 "the guillotine, the traditional method of killing, was starting to be replaced by other methods of killing such as hanging and shooting.'' Indeed, hanging had become quite common at Plötzensee Prison - on the night of September 7, 1943 136 condemned prisoners were hanged, plus another six inmates 'by accident'. Ibid.

Peter Hoffmann, in his extensively researched and annotated The History of the German Resistance 1933-1945 (MIT Press 1977) FN 26 at 528, gives an exhausive account of the various statements and accounts by persons presumably knowledgeble about one aspect or another of the executions. There is considerable dispute about the precise manner in which the executions were carried out; there is some indication that the victims were allowed to fall with the full weight of the body and that "death came very soon", others reported "a prolonged death agony", one of the prison ministers believes that Hitler ordered certain of the condemned to be slowly strangled, although this was presumably hearsay as he was not permitted to accompany the victims. There seems to be uniformity in testimony, however, that both movies and still photographs were taken of the prisoners in the nude and in their death throes, and taken to and showed at the Wolfschanze, and although Speer saw photographs of the hangings on Hitler's map table it is not clear that Hitler saw the movies themselves.

But in any event the circumstances of the execution have previously been hashed and rehashed on this Forum ad nauseum (see Peter H's Post of Wed Jun 29, 2005 7:42 am above, and David Thompson's of Wed Jun 29, 2005 9:12 am above. ) And it seems to me that the brief conclusions drawn by frederic in his above post seem unassailable.

However, none of this deals with the specific issue as to the authenticity of the photos appearing in an obscure (it apparently no longer exists) Swiss newspaper in mid-February 1945, which gave birth to Panzermann's initial post on this thread:

Goebbels had commissioned a film of the trial and hangings.21 Hitler however forbade its release fearing a backlash, an ‘undesirable debate’ about the trial.22 He ordered the execution footage particularly kept under lock and key. Despite this newspapers reported that the British legation in Switzerland had shown a print to Swiss officers there. Investigations showed that it was a fake furnished by a Mr Saunders, a British secret service agent; it was evidently the origin of several post-war legends about the executions including rumours that the men were hanged from meathooks and took ten hours to die.23

Page 872, Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich, David Irving, Fpp edition

Footnotes

21 The film was ‘Verräter vor dem Volksgericht.’ The first part, five acts, ran for 105 minutes;
the second, also five acts, for 105 minutes; a silent roll showing the hanging of Witzleben
et al. in four acts ran for 20–25 minutes. Their current location is unknown.—
Reichsfilmintendant (Hinkel) to Naumann, Aug 31, 1944 (BA file R.55/664); and Lindenborn
to JG, Jan 17, 1945 (ZStA Potsdam, Rep.50.01, vol.831).

22 Note by Leiter F. (of Hinkel’s staff), Oct 21, 1944 (ZStA Potsdam, Rep.50.01, vol.831).—
The film shown at the Nuremberg trials, ‘Proceedings against the Criminals of Jul 20, 1944,’
was edited from unreleased Deutsche Wochenschau newsreel footage confiscated by OMGUS
at the offices of AFIFA in Tempelhof.

23 SS Sturmbannführer Ulenberg (RMVP) to Hinkel, Mar 5 (ZStA Potsdam, Rep.50.01,
vol.831). Die Nation, Feb 14, 1945 published an alleged photo of Witzleben and Hoepner
hanging.


I have emphasized the portions crucial to the issue at hand, which IMHO just don't hang together.

Irving writes that the ''execution footage" (clearly the movie and not the still shots) was kept under lockand key, but despite this there were reports (undated) from unnamed newspapers that the British legation in Switzerland had shown a print (presumably of the ""execution footage", ie the movie) to Swiss officers. "Investigations" (by unamed sources) showed that "it" (ie. the print of the movie containing the execution footage) was a fake furnished by a Mr. Saunders, an otherwise unidentified ""British secret service agent." So the allegation is that the British Secret Service faked the entire 20-25 minute movie depicting the execution of Feldmarschall von Witzleben (and that of Gerneral Hoepner as well?) so as to show them to "Swiss officers''? And this was supposed to be the basis for the ''rumours that the men were hanged from meathooks", which ''rumours'' were, it turns out, unquestionably accurate - let us not forget that Irving wrote this in 1994, long after the voluminous sources concerning the meathooks had been identified and published!

And how does Irving support this allegation? With the citation of a letter from an SS Sturmbannführer to Hinkle dated March 5, 1945, apparently with reference to still photographs of Witzleben and Hoepner hanging from meathooks, which appeared in the February 14 edition of Die Nation, a left wing Swiss weekly newspaper.

So if the " investigation" was inspired by the still shots apprearing in the February 14 edition of Die Nation, it took only 19 days for the SS to determine that a Mr. Saunders, working with the British secret Service, had managed to fake the entire motion picture footage of the execution of von Witzleben and Hoepner! An amazing piece of detective work! - particularly as it must have started with inquiries of the employees of a notoriously anti-fascist newspaper, whose willingness to cooperate with such an investigation would, one would suppose, be highly unlikely.

Clearly, Irving's pronouncement and proffered support have on their face the scent of old fish about them, but the clincher lies in frederic's inability to find a motive for the the alleged faking by the British secret service. Why would they go the the trouble and expense, near the end of a war that was virtually lost to the German's, to fake what must have been about 45 minutes of movies showing the death throws of two German Generals, simply to have still shots from the faked movies published in an obscure left-wing Swiss newspaper. As far as we know, nothing else whatsoever was done with the faked film, and it would seem that even a type as obtuse as Colonel Blimp would have realized the excessive waste of time and effort for so little purpose.

Of course we will probably never know the facts, but on the face of what we do know and what appear to be the dictates of reason, David Irving''s lack of credibility as a historian is once more shamefully apparent.

Regards, Kaschner

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Execution film/photos July 20 conspirators

Post by fredric » 28 May 2006 03:53

Three "historic" photographs taken in the Plotzensee execution chamber intrigue me because they may... and I emphasize may... be relate to the the July 20 photo/film documentation.

The first is an image of the famous butcher's hooks with wire nooses attached. Eight hooks are shown, the original number. (The beam and hooks were not a special contrivance installed at Hitler's command. They were there well before the August 1944 executions...so this may be an authentic picture.) I found it in a commemorative book on the conspirators and I believe I have seen it on Richard Clark's website. I do not know the history of this photograph and wonder if it is a forgery.

The second photo is of poor quality and shows the guillotine and behind it, the beam with eight hooks...and there is a large tub near the guillotine. This photo looks like a single film cell blown up to print size. Again, I do not know the photo's history and I have not seen it on the web. I have seen it once, on t.v.

The third is the photo of the guillotine and beam that can be seen in Evan's book. I have not been able to date this image. Does anyone have information on this picture...or the others?

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Post by michael mills » 28 May 2006 06:05

The real issue is not Irving's credibility, but the origin of the photo published in the Swiss anti-fascist newspaper "Die Nation".

Was that photo genuine, derived from the footage that Goebbels had ordered be taken of the trial and executions, and somehow smuggled out of Germany despite Hitler's having ordered it to be held under lock and key?

Or was it a fake, fabricated by the British Secret Service with the intention of disseminating it to the world through the British Legation in Switzerland, initially through contacts with Swiss officers?

Irving concludes, on the basis of a report made by German agents in Switzerland back to Goebbels ministry, that it was indeed a fake.

The reliability of Irving's account could only be determined by checking exactly what the report by the German agents said, and the reasons they gave for their conclusion that the published photot was a fake.

One possibility is that Goebbels was extremely embarrassed by the fact that the British were showing around an image purportedly derived from footage that he himself had ordered be made, and which Hitler had subsequently ordered not to be disseminated, and that he arranged for the preparation of a false report about British fakery, so as to absolve himself from the ultimate responsibility for the creation of an image that was now a propaganda tool against Germany.

But it is more likely that the German agents in Switzerland genuinely believed that the image was a fake fabricated by the British.

One salient fact is that the film footage of the executions, which certainly was recorded on Goebbels' orders, has never been found. That backs up the claim that Hitler ordered it to be kept under lock and key, and perhaps destroyed. It also demonstrates that neither the entire film footage nor part of it ever fell into Allied hands (by contrast with the footage of the trials, which did come into Allied possession and excerpts from which are often screeded in television documentaries).

That being so, it seems unlikely that a genuine image derived from the film footage had found its way into the hands of British agents. If such a genuine image had been in British possession, we would expect to find that in in all our history books today, even more so if the entire film footage had fallen into British hands.

Accordingly, the report by German aganets in Switzerland that the photo published in "Die Nation" was a fake, is likely to e correct.

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Post by walterkaschner » 28 May 2006 09:03

Michael Mills wrote:

The real issue is not Irving's credibility, but the origin of the photo published in the Swiss anti-fascist newspaper "Die Nation".


As all we have to rely on is Irving's statement in his text and the footnotes he offers in support, it does seem to me that his credibility is a fair issue. And as I tried to point out in my previous post, his footnote does not seem to support his text. In the text, he alleges that a print of the execution footage of the movie was faked by one Mr. Saunders of the British secret service and shown to Swiss officers, which fake was "evidently the origin of several post-war legends about the executions including rumours that the men were hanged from meathooks and took ten hours to die.'' But what he offers to support this claim is a citation to a communication (the text of which we don't have) from an SS Sturmbannführer attached to the RHSA to the Head of the film department of Goebbel's Propaganda Ministry, with the cryptic notation that a Swiss newspaper (obscure, weekly, anti-fascist) had published an alleged photo of von Witzleben and Hoepner hanging. No word about Mr Saunders, or the British secret service, or the faking of the execution footage of the movie, just a reference to a single photo showing the two men hanging. And how in the world could a single photo of two men hanging be the source of a rumour that it took them ten hours to die?!?!

Mr Mills poses the question:

Was that photo genuine, derived from the footage that Goebbels had ordered be taken of the trial and executions, and somehow smuggled out of Germany despite Hitler's having ordered it to be held under lock and key?

Or was it a fake, fabricated by the British Secret Service with the intention of disseminating it to the world through the British Legation in Switzerland, initially through contacts with Swiss officers?


Note that the clear implication of Irving's claim is that the British faked the "execution footage", not just a single still shot. And we know that there were selected still shots made and on display at Wolfschanze - they were seen both by Albert Speer and by Sergeant-Major Werner Vogel. Hoffmann, The History of the German Resistance op cit supra at 528, FN 26. Certainly it would have been easier to smuggle out a still shot than an entire movie, and that of course is a theoretical possibility, as Mr. Mills notes. It would also be much easier to fake a still shot than an entire movie, but that is not what Irving claims was faked.

So one alternative was that the shot was smuggled out of Germany, presumably for the purpose of rousing worldwide indignation at the bestiality of the Nazis. And another was, as Mr. Mills suggests, that it was faked by the British secret service, for the same purpose. But isn't the problem with either alternative painfully obvious ? No such purpose was in fact served, or likely to be, by the publication of the photo in a newspaper such as Die Nation - an obscure overtly anti-fascist Swiss weekly. And apparently no one paid any attention to it, although one would have thought that at least the British and American Press would have leaped all over the story. But as far as I know the picture has never been reproduced anywhere, nor even any mention made of it apart from Irving's Goebbles book. If indeed it was a British secret service fake, Mr. Saunders certainly went to a peck of trouble for nothing.

A third, as Mr. Mills also points out, is that Goebbels himself arranged for a false report out of embarrassment that the British were using the photo as a propaganda tool - but if indeed they were, they were highly unsuccessful at it.

The fact is of course that there are at least three other theoretical alternatives. One - that Sturmbannführer Ulenberg's informant was either in error or simply made up the story of the photo in Die Nation. Two - that Irving himself either misconstrued the message cited or made the whole thing up (not an unknown proclivity of his). Three, that Die Nation faked the photo so as to sell more papers and further its own anti-fascist political agenda - which, having made such a clumsy job of it, was ignored by the rest of the world's press and has faded into total oblivion.

Probably we shall never know the truth of it. I would, however, lean strongly toward the last alternative if there were any evidence whatsoever of the photo's publication other than Irving's cryptic citation to the Ulenberg communication. There being none that I know of, I'm compelled to put the whole story in the file which contains Irving's account of the strafing of civilians at Dresden.

Regards, Kaschner

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Post by michael mills » 28 May 2006 23:21

It seems to me that the only reason Irving would have to fabricate a story about the faking by British agents of either a photograph or film footage of the executions would be in support of a claim that no genuine films or photos of the executions were made, and that all references to Hitler watching a film or seeing photos of the executions are therefore false.

However, Irving makes no such claim. In fact, he affirms that Goebbels did order such a film to be made, and provides in a footnote detailed evidence of the making of the film.

He is silent on the question of whether Hitler actually saw the film of the executions or stills taken from it. His statement that Hitler ordered the film to be kept under lock and key leaves open the possibility that Hitler viewed it and realised that it would be counter-productive to release it for public viewing.

It seems to me most likely that there is a genuine report from German agents in Switzerland stating that the British Legation in Switzerland had shown purported images of the executions to Swiss officers and that one of those images had been published in a Swiss anti-fascist newspaper, and claiming that the images were fakes fabricated by a British agent.

Since Irving has given a reference to that report held in the files of the IfZ, it is open to any of Irving's opponents to go to Munich to check it (or to ask IfZ to provide a copy). Since the book on Goebbels was published before Irving's court action against Penguin books, and hence before the exhaustive examination of Irving's books carried out by Professor Evans and financed by Penguin, it seems that Evans was unable to find any evidence that Irving had misrepresented that reference.

In any case, the whole episode is only mentioned in passing by Irving. His point is that a number of rumours circulated about the executions, and Forum member Fredric has shown that indeed there were such rumours, and that they were false. One of the rumours is that hooks normally used for hanging carcasses in a slaughterhouse were employed for the hangings, specifically at Hitler's command; Fredric has shown that the specific hanging methodology had already been introduced, and that no unique elements were introduced into the executions of the condemned military plotters, whether at Hitler's command or anybody else's. While as part of the hanging methodology hooks were used for attaching the nooses, rather than rings or pulleys, there is no evidence that those hooks had ever been used for hanging meat.

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Plotzensee's beam/hooks documentation

Post by fredric » 29 May 2006 03:46

For anyone interested, a December, 1942 directive from Rich Minister of Justice Otto Thierack exists in the archives (and published in part in the Resistance Memorial's booklet, "Plotzensee Memorial Center") in which Thierack lists the expected increase in executions. A reference is made to executions expected from the Aviation Ministry which are probably the intital execution of Red Orchestra leaders. He notes that Goebbels suggests that executions will be mandated by hanging and says that it is expected that Hitler will order hangings which the judiciary will be requested to carry out immediately. With that as his preamble, Thierack directs that a hanging beam like that in Posen and Bruchschal be installed in Plotzensee equipped with eight hooks in order to permit simultaneous hangings of groups of eight. The beam and hooks were installed and hangings began on December 22, 1942. The mass hangings of Sept. 7-8, 1943 were carried out using the same beam/hook system. The conspirators were hanged from the same hooks. Today, the beam and five hooks remain. They are not equipped with rollers as at Posen. They seem to be secured to the beam. This may have been done when the memorial was created in 1952.

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Post by walterkaschner » 29 May 2006 06:53

Thanks, fredric, for that interesting post. Minister Thierack certainly had cause for concern about the increase in executions during the last years of the Third Reich. Figure 10 annexed to Wachsmann's Hitler's Prisons (at 402-403), cited in my previous post, shows that the number of death sentences ordered by judicial courts rose from 102 in 1934 to 1,292 in 1941, then to 4,457 in 1942, to 5,336 in 1943 and then fell back a bit to 4,264 in 1944. Clearly hanging 8 at a time is more efficient than beheading one at a time by guillotine, and hanging on meathooks at Plötzensee was obviously a well established practice prior to the execution of the July 20 conspirators.

I have never thought that Hitler was ordering a new method of execution when he ordered the conspirators ''hanged and hung up like slaughtered cattle'', but rather that he was determined to deny them the "honor" of being shot by firing squad, an execution typically awarded army officers. For example, as a sign of clemency Generaloberst Fromm was shot rather than hanged, as his crime was cowardice rather than lese-majeste' (sorry, my accents refuse to come out right). See Hoffmann, The History of the German Resistance, cited in my previous post, at 528.

BTW, there is a post-war picture of the execution room at Plözensee , in the 3rd ed. of Germans Against Hitler, compiled by Erich Zimmermann and Hans-Adolf Jacobsen, (Berto-Verlag 1960) at 199, showing 5 meathooks on a ceiling beam, much as I remember it from a visit some 30 years ago.

Regards, Kaschner

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Post by walterkaschner » 29 May 2006 08:33

michael mills wrote:It seems to me that the only reason Irving would have to fabricate a story about the faking by British agents of either a photograph or film footage of the executions would be in support of a claim that no genuine films or photos of the executions were made, and that all references to Hitler watching a film or seeing photos of the executions are therefore false.


I can imagine another reason might be to portray ''perfidious Albion'' and its secret service in a bad light, perpetually engaged in faking documents and starting false rumors so that nothing emenating from that source could possibly be trusted, and to suggest that none of the rumours concerning the brutal treatment of the condemned were true.

However, Irving makes no such claim. In fact, he affirms that Goebbels did order such a film to be made, and provides in a footnote detailed evidence of the making of the film.


How could Irving do otherwise and maintain even the slightest shred of credibility? There were simply too many witnesses to the filming, including statements by the camera-man himself.

It seems to me most likely that there is a genuine report from German agents in Switzerland stating that the British Legation in Switzerland had shown purported images of the executions to Swiss officers and that one of those images had been published in a Swiss anti-fascist newspaper, and claiming that the images were fakes fabricated by a British agent.


There may indeed have been such a report, but even if there was its accuracy seems to me to be highly questionable. I find it hard to believe that such a photograph would not at least have stirred up a firestorm of reportage among the Allied Press, even if the sensitivities of the media in those days were too great to have published the actual pictures themselves. If the British secret service wanted them published for the world to see surely they could have found a better way to go about it. And if that was not their purpose in faking the pictures, what could it have been?. Surely not to go to all that trouble only to shock a few "Swiss officers"

Since Irving has given a reference to that report held in the files of the IfZ, it is open to any of Irving's opponents to go to Munich to check it (or to ask IfZ to provide a copy). Since the book on Goebbels was published before Irving's court action against Penguin books, and hence before the exhaustive examination of Irving's books carried out by Professor Evans and financed by Penguin, it seems that Evans was unable to find any evidence that Irving had misrepresented that reference.


Well, I would love to return once more to that beautiful city, and indeed may do so ''Inch Allah'' for an entirely different purpose in the coming years, but frankly I can't conceive that its the obligation of the reader to spend the considerable time, money and effort to run down a historian's inadequate citation.

It is true that Professor Evans had access to Irving's Goebbles book and that his testimony in Irving's lawsuit against Lipstadt and Penguin Books makes no reference to the statement or citation in question. However, as Evans noted in his report to the Court at 1.5.8:

It was of course impossible to cover the whole of Irving’s oeuvre with complete thoroughness, and some principle of selectivity had to be applied. We decided that I would cover Irving’s general reputation as a historian, Irving’s attitude to Hitler, and the central issue of whether or not Irving was a Holocaust denier. On the equally important matter of whether or not Irving distorted and falsified history, we decided to concentrate on the ‘chain of documents’ which Irving on various occasions had claimed proved Hitler’s ignorance and disapproval of the Nazi persecution and extermination of the Jews.


And at 1.6.1:

Penetrating beneath the confident surface of his prose quickly revealed a mass of distortion and manipulation in every issue we tackled that was so tangled that detailing it sometimes took up many more words than had been devoted to it in Irving’s original account. Unpicking the eleven-page narrative of the anti-Jewish pogrom of the so-called Reichskristallnacht in Irving’s book Goebbels: Mastermind of the ‘Third Reich’ and tracing back every part of it to the documentation on which it purports to rest takes up over seventy pages of the present Report. A similar knotted web of distortions, suppressions and manipulations became evident in every single instance which we examined. We have not suppressed any occasion on which Irving has used accepted and legitimate methods of historical research, exposition and interpretation: there were none.


Obviously Evans had neither the time or the resources to run down every source for every statement in every book that Irving wrote. His purpose was limited: to show that Debrah Lipstadt's description of Irving as a holocaust denier and lousy historian was essentially true. And for that it was not necessary to verify that everything Irving wrote was manufactured out of whole cloth - an ample selection was sufficient .

Mr. Mills again:

In any case, the whole episode is only mentioned in passing by Irving. His point is that a number of rumours circulated about the executions, and Forum member Fredric has shown that indeed there were such rumours, and that they were false. One of the rumours is that hooks normally used for hanging carcasses in a slaughterhouse were employed for the hangings, specifically at Hitler's command; Fredric has shown that the specific hanging methodology had already been introduced, and that no unique elements were introduced into the executions of the condemned military plotters, whether at Hitler's command or anybody else's. While as part of the hanging methodology hooks were used for attaching the nooses, rather than rings or pulleys, there is no evidence that those hooks had ever been used for hanging meat.


There were indeed rumours, and indeed some - but not all - were false. But the fact remains that Hitler did order the conspirators hanged like beef carcasses: "Ich will, das sie gehängt werden, aufgehängt wie Schlachtvieh" and that they were hung on hooks which look identical to those employed at slaughterhouses. Whether they had previously been used for hanging beef carcasses strikes me as extremely unlikely, but totally beside the point.

But I think we have probably reached the point of diminishing returns on this thread; we can each have our own opinion or conviction based upon our individual notions of logic, but without further facts it seems to me that we have milked this old cow just about dry.

Regards, Kaschner

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Post by Desdichado » 10 Jun 2006 20:19

There were indeed rumours, and indeed some - but not all - were false. But the fact remains that Hitler did order the conspirators hanged like beef carcasses: "Ich will, das sie gehängt werden, aufgehängt wie Schlachtvieh" and that they were hung on hooks which look identical to those employed at slaughterhouses. Whether they had previously been used for hanging beef carcasses strikes me as extremely unlikely, but totally beside the point.

But I think we have probably reached the point of diminishing returns on this thread; we can each have our own opinion or conviction based upon our individual notions of logic, but without further facts it seems to me that we have milked this old cow just about dry.


There is a very good account of the actions of the Schwarze Kapelle in Anthony Cave-Brown's excellent book, Bodyguard of Lies (W.H. Allen - London 1976). The old canard the the conspirators were hanged with piano wire has long been exploded but certainly the condemned did die a lingering death and10 minutes seems very plausible indeed. Even if the conspirators died within a shorter time, there was one who did not; Admiral Canaris.

Freisler denied the accused men any dignity whatsoever, removing their belts, braces and ties. Hanging, according to Cave-Brown, was the ultimate insult to a member of the German officer corp and that was why Hitler - by then having no trust or confidence in his generals - may have ordered the hangings, thus publicly showing his contempt for the Junker class that he had always held since his days in the List Regiment.

Admiral Wilhelm Canaris - Heydrich's old foe - was hanged from a hook at Flossenberg in April 1945. Canaris asked that he be allowed to fight as a common soldier on the Russian Front but was denied. On the night before he died, Canaris tapped a message in morse to Lt. Col. H.M. Lunding of the Danish secret service, imprisoned in the next sell. Cave-Brown records the message thus:

"I die for my country and with a clear conscience...you as an officer will realize that I was only doing my duty to my country when I endeavoured to oppose Hitler...do what you can for my wife (and) daughters...they've broken my nose...I die this morning...farewell..."

Canaris was dragged naked the execution chamber and fitted with an iron collar by his SS executioners. The rest of the story is told by Cave-Brown:

"Dr. Joseph Mueller, Canaris's secret envoy to the Vatican, later testified that an SS officer told him that Canaris was hung (sic) from the ceiling in the execution chamber by and iron collar. His executioners thought he was dead and took him down; but when they found that he was still alive, they started the execution over again. Canaris, in all, took thirty minutes to die." An ignoble end for a brave man and German patriot.

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Post by michael mills » 12 Jun 2006 12:20

Canaris was dragged naked the execution chamber and fitted with an iron collar by his SS executioners. The rest of the story is told by Cave-Brown:

"Dr. Joseph Mueller, Canaris's secret envoy to the Vatican, later testified that an SS officer told him that Canaris was hung (sic) from the ceiling in the execution chamber by and iron collar. His executioners thought he was dead and took him down; but when they found that he was still alive, they started the execution over again. Canaris, in all, took thirty minutes to die." An ignoble end for a brave man and German patriot.


This is a fairly obvious tall tale told at third hand; it surprises me that anyone could believe this stuff.

It may that Canaris was killed by means of the Spanish "garrote", which indeed consists of a metal collar which is closed around the neck of the condemned person and then tightened by means of a screw until the cervical vertebrae are crushed.

However, this methodology does not involve any form of suspension or use of the condemned person's bodyweight as a means of exerting the pressure to bring about strangulation or dislocation of the cervical vertebrae. Rather, the victim sits on a stool with his back to an upright stake to which the metal collar, the "garrote", is attached and through which the screw operates, pressing into the back of the neck of the receiver of the execution service.

A metal collar fastened around the neck would be useless for any form of hanging, since, being rigid, it would not pull tight like a slipknot. Either it would be tight enough when initially fastened around the neck to constrict the carotid arteries sufficiently to cut off the blood supply to the brain and thus cause unconsciousness and eventually death from cerebral hypoxia, in which case there would be no need to utilise bodyweight by suspending the victim, or else it would not be tight enough, in which case suspending the victim would fail to make it any tighter, and strangulation would not ensue, no matter how long the victim were left suspended.

The likelihood is that Canaris was executed using the normal methodology of hanging introduced in Germany for persons condemned for treason, ie by means of a noose suspended from a hook attached to a crossbar. If the slipknot in the noose was working properly, then once his full bodyweight came to bear on the noose, it would have pulled tight immediately, instantly compressing the carotid arteries and causing loss of consciousness within seconds.

The only reason why Canaris might have been still alive after being taken down would have been if the slipknot failed to pull tight, thereby not compressing the carotid arteries sufficiently to cause fatal cranial hypoxia. Under such a circumstance, Canaris would certainly have lapsed into unconsciousness very quickly, since the brain is extremely sensitive to hypoxia, and rapidly shuts down the higher functions such as consciousness in order to conserve all available blood for feeding the lower parts of the brain that control vital motor functions; however, enough blood would have been getting through to the brain to keep him alive.

I would presume that Mueller invented the story about the metal ring, based on descriptions of the "garrote".

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