Books The Theory And Practice of Hell (1950)

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Eugen Kogon’s account of German concentration camps, when he was in the service of the Allied-American Psychological Warfare Division.

On April 16, 1945, five days after the first American armored units had arrived, an Intelligence Team from the Psychological Warfare Division visited the Buchenwald concentration camp. Its mission w’as to study the situation and to prepare a comprehensive report for Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF), The report was to show how a German concentration camp was organized, what role was assigned to it in the Nazi State and what happened to those who were sent to the camps by the Gestapo and detained there by the SS.

…Under the direction of Lieutenant Albert G. Rosenberg, the members of the team. Max M, Kimcntal, Richard Akselrad, Alfred H. Sampson and Ernest S, Biberfeld, began to lay the groundwork for an objective and conclusive report. Their own work in helping to dissolve the camp quickly made them realize that it was quite impossible for outsiders to gain even an approximately accurate picture of the complex situation within the camp and to evaluate its true significance. Such a task could be carried out only in close collaboration with a few reliable camp inmates who had no axe to grind. Kogon was asked to take over this job.

The initial report was completed in Weimar within about a month. Constant liaison was maintained with the camp and the numerous groups of former prisoners, and rather formidable difficulties had to be overcome, as will become evident from many of the chapters in this book. The first report comprised some 400 typewritten pages, single-spaced. There was a main report of 125 pages which Kogon himself had dictated, and approximately 150 statements from individual prisoners who* by virtue of their experience, had been asked to give their view’s on various facts, incidents, persons and phases. Kogon’s chief collaborators were the Socialist writer Ferdinand Romhild; Heinz Baumeister of Dortmund, a Social Democrat; and Stefan Heymann, an orthodox Communist editor with whom Kogon was on excellent terms, although Heymann had been detailed by the Communist leadership in camp to serve as a check on him,

Kogon consulted further with Dr. Werner Hilpert, former leader of the Catholic Action in Saxony and chairman of the Catholic Center party in Saxony, as well as with The radical leftist writer Franz Hackct. Except for Stefan Heymann, Kogon had long been on terms of close friendship with all these men* Each of them had wide experience in camp, their minimum term of detention being five years. They had “come up from below.” Under circumstances that were often very difficult they had slowly risen to positions that afforded them insight and influence. Both had always involved danger, especially since none of these men belonged to the “big shot 11 group in camp. None of them was soiled by corruption or other camp misdeeds.

To dispel certain apprehensions that the report might become a kind of indictment of leading camp inmates, Kogon read all but two of the twelve chapters—all that was finished at the time—to a group of fifteen men early in May 1945, All fifteen had beenleaders of the camp underground, or were representative of certain groups of political prisoners. Their verdict was that the contents of the report were objective and accurate.

….One copy each of the finished report was transmitted by way of the Rosenberg Intelligence Team to the Psychological Warfare Division, SHAEF, Paris, and the headquarters of the Twelfth United States Army Group at Bad Nauheim. Subsequently this material repeatedly served as a basis for investigations by the War Crimes Commission at Nuremberg and Wiesbaden, and by the Military Intelligence Service Center of the United States Forces, European Theater.

Mr, Crossman of Oxford, today a Labor party member of the British House of Commons, at the time working for the British Broadcasting Corporation with the Psychological Warfare Division in Paris, was the first to recommend that the report, which was addressed to an official agency rather than to the public, be reworked into a book. The chief of the Psychological Warfare Division, later to become the Information Control Division, Brigadier-Genera! Robert A. McClure, agreed to the proposal, and upon returning from Paris Kogon went to work.

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Obergruppenfuhrer SS

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