Jun 5, 2011

"Of the 1.6 million prisoners who passed through the Nazi concentration camp system in its twelve-year existence, 1.1 million died. Of those fatalities, more than 250,000, or a quarter, perished during the last five months of the regime"


I got this on another list. Does anyone have the book? does he really say:

"Of the 1.6 million prisoners who passed through the Nazi concentration camp 
system in its twelve-year existence, 1.1 million died. Of those fatalities, 
more than 250,000, or a quarter, perished during the last five months of the 

Michael Santomauro


Begin forwarded message:

Only 1.6 million who passed through the death camps?

TLS 5644: Christopher R. Browning: Hunting the zebras
The Times Literary Supplement
June 3, 2011

Christopher R. Browning is Frank Porter Graham Professor of History at the 
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His books include Origins of 
the Final Solution: The evolution of Nazi Jewish policy, September 1939 - 
March 1942, published in 2004, and Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi slave 
labor camp, 2010.

Daniel Blatman
The final phase of Nazi genocide
561pp. Belknap Press. £24.95 (US $35). 978 0 674 05049 5

Of the 1.6 million prisoners who passed through the Nazi concentration camp 
system in its twelve-year existence, 1.1 million died. Of those fatalities, 
more than 250,000, or a quarter, perished during the last five months of the 
regime. Most, according to Daniel Blatman, did not die in a final attempt to 
complete the extermination of the Jews (and indeed many of the victims were 
not Jews), but rather as "dangerous" prisoners, whose very existence posed 
severe dilemmas to the Nazi leadership and German society. Though some 
historians have treated the "death marches" as the last chapter of the Final 
Solution, Blatman himself subtitles his book "The final phase of Nazi 
genocide". One main thrust of this important book is to situate the "death 
marches" more broadly as the last chapter of the Nazi concentration camp 

One of Blatman's most important contributions is to make historical sense 
out of an increasingly chaotic situation, to provide structure and order to 
his narrative of a multifaceted and fragmented phenomenon. His portrayal of 
the "death marches" encompasses five phases. The first and least lethal was 
the evacuation of labour camps outside the Third Reich in the face of 
advancing Allied armies in the summer of 1944, above all from central Poland 
and the Baltic back to Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Third Reich, but also from 
Alsace and Yugoslavia. The most lethal of these was the march of Hungarian 
Jews from the Bor mines in Yugoslavia, in which - foreshadowing future 
events within Germany - anxious and callous guards massacred exhausted 
prisoners who could not keep pace ahead of advancing enemy forces. In 
Poland, by contrast, the halt of the Red Army on the Vistula after its 
extraordinary advance from Belarus permitted a more orderly evacuation of 
Nazi labour camps in the General Government and Baltic.

However, the renewed Soviet offence in January 1945 exposed the fact that 
German authorities - in denial of reality - had made no adequate 
preparations to evacuate even their own civilian populations, much less 
concentration camp labour. The hastily improvised marches out of 
Auschwitz-Birkenau, Gross-Rosen and Stutthoff and their myriad sub-camps 
took place in the middle of winter on roads clogged with fleeing German 
civilians and broken German army units. With the exception of a few 
sub-camps, prisoners deemed too weak or sick to have labour value were 
simply left behind and soon liberated by the Red Army. Tragically, those 
prisoners deemed of value were driven on exhausting marches with inadequate 
food, clothing and shelter, and soon weakened. As they inevitably straggled, 
they were gunned down by guards impatient to keep pace and unwilling to 
leave anyone else behind.

As the surviving remnant of Jewish slave labourers from the East stumbled 
into the German camps and merged with the predominantly non-Jewish prisoners 
already there, they were caught in a vicious downward spiral.

The camps were already overflowing, without adequate food and lodging for 
the newcomers and for the most part also without work - the very reason for 
which they had been sent back to the Reich. At the bottom of the prisoner 
hierarchy, they were less able to fend for themselves in the zero-sum 
struggle for survival among prisoners within the Darwinian camp system. 
Their relatively disadvantaged position steadily worsened. Thus Blatman's 
third phase is the great loss of life within the concentration camps in the 
spring of 1945, as prisoners died not only from horrific living conditions 
but also from selection and execution. At Ravensbrück and Mauthausen, small 
gas chambers claimed the lives of many. And Bergen-Belsen, once the camp for 
privileged and potential exchange prisoners, was transformed into "a site of 
mass extermination", where 35,000 people perished in five months. In short, 
even without yet another wave of evacuations and death marches in April 
1945, the fatality rate in the last months of the war among camp prisoners 
in general, and among Jewish prisoners in particular, was already 

In March 1945, Himmler complicated the situation still further by sending 
out contradictory directives as to whether camp prisoners should be 
evacuated, liquidated or left alive and in place to be liberated by Allied 
troops. Himmler contemplated not only keeping Jewish prisoners alive but 
evacuating them ahead of potential liberation in order to hold them as 
bargaining chips in the increasingly surreal negotiations he was attempting. 
However, at least initially, he did not pass on Hitler's directive that no 
prisoners were to be left alive to fall into Allied hands. In the wake of a 
partial evacuation of Buchenwald, the remaining prisoners were liberated, 
but then were falsely rumoured among the Germans to have committed 
widespread atrocities in nearby Weimar. Facing Hitler's wrath, Himmler sent 
out the directive to leave no prisoners behind, and a chaotic last wave of 
camp evacuations was magnified precisely when the routes they could take and 
the remaining camps to which they could go were rapidly diminishing, and the 
fear of guards being captured with their emaciated prisoners in hand 
increased. A more lethal recipe for columns of exhausted prisoners wandering 
aimlessly while being murdered by their guards could scarcely be imagined.

At various times and places the columns of marching prisoners simply got 
stuck. With Allied forces often just hours away, there was simply no further 
place for them to go, which set the scene for the fifth and final phase of 
the "death marches". Blatman gives a detailed case study of one such 
incident at Gardelegen, examining the dynamics by which the frightened local 
community mobilized to liquidate the "dangerous prisoners" in their midst 
before the Allies could arrive and let them loose on the townspeople. 
Blatman notes three occasions when this vicious dynamic had already played 
itself out, first with the murder of Jewish prisoners at Palmnicken on the 
Baltic coast in late January and early February, and then with non-Jewish, 
mostly French prisoners at Lüneberg and a mixed group of mostly non-Jewish 
prisoners in Celle, both in early April 1945. But the remarkable dissection 
of the Gardelegen massacre of April 13, just hours before the arrival of 
American troops, comprises four chapters of the book. Here Blatman shifts 
his focus to what he dubs a "close encounter" between German society and 
Nazi genocide.

As trainloads of prisoners from various camps attempted to reach less 
endangered sites, two were halted at the small village of Mieste and another 
at Letzlingen. Panicked local officials, whose local populations scarcely 
equalled the number of stranded prisoners, urged their removal to nearby 
Gardelegen, home of several military bases. When many of the guards 
deserted, local volunteers, members of the Volkssturm and zealous Hitler 
Youth, assembled to escort the prisoners away and joined in manhunts for 
prisoners who had fled, some proudly announcing they were going to hunt and 
shoot "zebras". Some of the prisoners successfully hid, others were hunted 
down and killed, and one batch of 500 arrived in the village of Burgstall, 
where local authorities - in a rare act of moral sanity - refused the 
guards' request to help them liquidate the entire column. But 1,100 
prisoners - less than a third of whom were Jewish - reached Gardelegen and 
were collected in a cavalry barracks on one of the bases. Even before their 
arrival, the local Nazi party boss, Kreisleiter Gerhard Thiele, had decided 
their presence constituted a terrible threat, if they were still alive and 
released into the community to take revenge after the fast-approaching 
Americans arrived. Though the senior SS convoy commander changed uniform and 
fled on a bicycle, and the senior military commander proclaimed that he was 
"a soldier, not a murderer", Thiele had no problem assembling a 
heterogeneous murder squad of remaining SS guards, twenty young paratroopers 
(who brought a large collection of weapons, grenades and even flamethrowers 
from the base), and local Volkssturm. Moreover, some twentyfive German and 
Volksdeutsch prisoners were offered uniforms and guns, and quickly 
transformed from potential victims into collaborating killers. On the late 
afternoon of April 13, the prisoners were transferred from the barracks to 
an isolated barn in the country- side. The gasoline-soaked barn was set on 
fire and then deluged with grenades and gunfire. Only a handful of prisoners 
escaped. Throughout the night and next day, feverish but inadequate efforts 
- including the mobilization of fifteen firefighters and fifty more local 
residents - were made to bury the bodies and destroy the evidence before the 
town was surrendered to the Americans at 7 pm on April 14.

In the last two chapters of the book, Blatman relates his study to two wider 
questions - the nature and motivation of the perpetrators on the one hand, 
and the relationship of the death marches to the Final Solution and genocide 
on the other. Concerning the perpetrators, Blatman insists on their 
heterogeneity, and he focuses on two of the most troubling groups in 
particular, the older guards and local townspeople. For the older men, 
usually the dregs of the manpower pool who often comprised most of the 
guards escorting the marches, Blatman thinks that situational factors were 
most important in transforming them into killers. Once the marches were 
under way, prisoners began to straggle and collapse. Faced with this 
situation for the first time, one hesitant guard was told either to shoot 
the collapsed prisoner or carry him.

He, like so many other guards, then shot his first victim and no longer 
hesitated thereafter.

For the local townspeople who joined the manhunts and massacres, Blatman 
emphasizes fear. Emaciated and exhausted prisoners, often scarcely able to 
move, were imagined as a terrible threat who would take revenge on family 
and property if they were left alive. Hence the race against time to track 
down escapees and massacre stranded columns of prisoners before the arrival 
of Allied troops, who, locals assumed, would turn the liberated prisoners 
loose on the community.

As so often in genocide, participation in the killing was framed as 
self-defence. The death marches differed in two fundamental ways from the 
Final Solution and other genocidal programmes of the Nazis. First, the death 
march killing was decentralized and without the clear orders and 
administrative supervision that characterized earlier Nazi genocide. Second, 
the victim group was not an identifiable national, ethnic or racial entity 
(Jews, Gypsies or Slavs) but rather a "mélange of ethnic, national, and 
racial groups" that were perceived as a "collective" that was both "other" 
and "inferior" on the one hand, and a "demonic and essentially fantastic 
threat" on the other. Against this "virtual" group, a murderous ideological 
consensus formed, binding German society with party and SS functionaries in 
the regime's death throes, and resulting in a "unique case of genocidal 
massacre" that was "related" but not identical to the Holocaust.

As with any account dealing with the death marches and perpetrator 
motivation, Blatman confronts the contrary interpretations of Daniel 
Goldhagen. But he does so briefly and professionally. Blatman's book allows 
us to clarify the relationship between the fate of the Jews and the death 
marches more sharply than before. In the first two phases, initial 
evacuation from the labour camps in the Baltic and General Government in the 
summer of 1944 and then from Auschwitz, Gross Rosen, Stutthoff and their 
sub-camps in the winter of 1945, the prisoners were all Jews. Non-Jewish 
workers had already been sent to the Reich by the million, while most Jewish 
workers had not. Here the clear priority was to preserve Jewish labour 
through evacuation, however counter-productive and selfdefeating this turned 
out to be in implementation, rather than the Final Solution. Because 
priority was given to the ill-prepared evacuation of Jewish workers in 
January and February 1945, the sick and weak prisoners left behind were for 
the most part not killed, but left alive and soon liberated. Once in
Germany, Jewish prisoners were systemically disadvantaged in significant 
ways vis-à-vis other prisoners, but in the final flurry of death marches and 
massacres in April 1945, the line between the two was increasingly blurred. 
The fate of the prisoners in each camp and death march was a particular 
story dependent on local factors and personalities within the context of the 
total collapse of a murderous regime, rather than the realization of a 
single policy or decision taken from above. For Jewish survivors, April 1945 
was understandably the traumatic and horrific last chapter of their 
Holocaust experience, but in terms of intended Nazi policy, it was not the 
last chapter of the Final Solution. The Holocaust (understood as the Jewish 
experience of persecution from 1933 to 1945), the Final Solution (understood 
as the conscious Nazi attempt to murder every last Jew in their grasp), and 
the death marches certainly overlapped in terms of Jewish victims and Nazi 
perpetrators, but it is the great merit of Daniel Blatman's book - in both 
its massive empirical base and analytical framework - that these necessary 
distinctions for historical clarity can now be made.


Fun stuff to read, tell and watch:

Now FREE to watch all 91 minutes: "Defamation," from Israeli filmmaker Yoav Shamir. LINK:

Some of His Best Friends Are Jewish: The Saga of a Holocaust Revisionist By Nathaniel Popper. Link: Israeli lawyer has filed a class-action lawsuit against former President Jimmy Carter, seeking $5 million in damages because his book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" allegedly defamed Israel. Link:

"...when you have laws against questioning the Holocaust narrative, you are screaming at the other person to stop thinking!!!" ---Mike Santomauro. *Anthony Lawson's Holocaust Video "were the Germans so stupid"... Link:

An anti-Semite condemns people for being Jews, I am not an anti-Semite.--Mike Santomauro. Link:


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