by Bookworm | May 30, 2009 8:39 pm
Ted Bromund is worried that Obama, by going to both Buchenwald and Dresden in the same trip is about to do something symbolically awful. Buchenwald, of course, was one of the infamous Nazi labor camps located right in Germany itself. It was not a death camp, and was not used specifically to exterminate Jews, but it had an appalling death rate. Those who died were political prisoners and the “unfit”. Pardon this lengthy Wikipedia quotation, but I think it’s important to put it here. (You can go to the Wikipedia article for the missing footnotes and hyperlinks):
Although Buchenwald technically was not an extermination camp, it was a site of an extraordinary number of deaths.
A primary cause of the deaths was illness due to harsh camp conditions, and hunger was also prevalent. Malnourished and suffering from disease, many were literally “worked to death”, as inmates had only the choice between slave labour or inevitable execution. Many inmates died as a result of human experimentations or fell victim to arbitrary acts perpetrated by the SS guards, and yet other prisoners were simply murdered–the two primary methods of execution were shooting and hanging. At one point, the ashes of dead prisoners would be returned to their families in a sheet metal box–postage due, to be paid by the family. This practice was eventually stopped as more and more prisoners died. 
Summary executions of Soviet POWs were also carried out at Buchenwald. At least 1,000 Soviet POWs were selected in 1941-2 by a task force of three Dresden Gestapo officers and sent to the camp for immediate liquidation by a gunshot to the back of the neck, the infamous Genickschuss, using a purpose-built facility.
The camp was also a site of large-scale trials for vaccines against epidemic typhus in 1942 and 1943. In all 729 inmates were used as test subjects, with 280 of them dying as a result. Because of their long association in cramped quarters in Block 46, the typhus killed more people and infections lasted longer than would have been the case had healthy adults been infected with the disease.
Number of deaths
The SS left behind accounts of the number of prisoners and people coming to and leaving the camp, categorizing those leaving them by release, transfer, or death. These accounts are one of the sources of estimates for the number of deaths in Buchenwald. According to SS documents, 33,462 died in Buchenwald. These documents were not, however, necessarily accurate: Among those executed before 1944 many were listed as “transferred to the Gestapo”. Furthermore, from 1941 forward Soviet POWs were executed in mass killings. Arriving prisoners selected for execution were not entered into the camp register and therefore were not among the 33,462 dead listed in SS documents.
One former Buchenwald prisoner, Armin Walter, calculated the number of executions by shooting in the back of the head. His job at Buchenwald was to set up and care for a radio installation at the facility where people were executed and counted the numbers, which arrived by telex, and hid the information. He says that 8,483 Soviet prisoners of war were shot in this manner.
According to the same source, the total number of deaths at Buchenwald is estimated at 56,545. This number is the sum of:
* Deaths according to material left behind by SS: 33,462
* Executions by shooting: 8,483
* Executions by hanging (estimate): 1,100
* Deaths during evacuation transports: 13,500
This total (56,545) corresponds to a death rate of 24 percent assuming that the number of persons passing through the camp according to documents left by the SS, 238,380 prisoners, is accurate.
So, just to be clear, in that one camp alone, Germans used and slaughtered almost 60,000 civilian prisoners (Jews, Communists, gays, royalty, intellectuals, Jehovah’s witnesses, priests, etc.)
People died at Dresden too. If you ask your reasonably well-informed person about Dresden, that person will tell you (a) that Dresden had no military importance; (b) that it held only a priceless art collection that was destroyed; and, most horribly of all (c) that 250,000 people died in a single night. (Which would make it worse than Hiroshima’s initial impact.)
As Bromund details in another article, however, the Dresden story we all know is propaganda from the master himself, Josef Goebbels. Yes, there were air raids. Yes, there was a fire. Yes, people died. And yes, art and old buildings were destroyed. Bromund explains, however, that the Dresden bombing was no worse that that the Allies visited on other cities; that they were substantially less than the bombings the Germans made on London, Plymouth, Poland, Rotterdam and Belgrade; that Dresden was in fact a City of major military importance, with an important railway depot and more than a hundred factories working for the war effort; and (and this is the big one) that Goebbels increased by as much as a factor of ten the number killed in the bombing in order to inflame people’s sensibilities.
That was then. This is now. And now you know — you just know — that Obama is going to find an equivalence between Buchenwald and Dresden. In rounded pontifical tones, he’ll casually conflate the Nazi’s deliberate slaughter of millions of innocent people with a strategic wartime attack on a significant military target. And then he’ll apologize.
Cross-posted at Bookworm Room
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