Chapter Eleven: Eugen Kogon and L'Enfer Organise
I am not acquainted with Eugen Kogon. I learned all that I know about him from what he says about himself in his book and from what I have read in the book reviews. Unless I am mistaken, Kogon is an Austrian journalist of the Christian social or Christian progressive variety who was arrested following the Anschluss and who was deported to Buchenwald. He is known to the French public as a sociologist.
L'Enfer Organise has had more success than any other concentration camp memoir. It covers a considerable number of facts and events, most of which were experienced by the author himself. Although Kogon is to some extent naive and is somewhat prone to exaggerate, his main weakness lies in his explanations and interpretations. These weaknesses are the result, on the one hand, of Kogon’s insistence at looking at things “in their political light” (Preface, page 14) and, on the other hand, of his desire to justify the conduct of the Haeftlingsfuehrung. His vindication of the concentration camp bureaucracy is done in an even more categorical and explicit manner than the “whitewash” that was done by David Rousset.
Otherwise, Eugen Kogon writes his report, so he says, “without any regard for the consequences … as a man and a Christian” (Preface, page 14), and without any intention of writing a comprehensive “history of the German concentration camps” or “a compilation of all of the horrors that were found in them; but rather a work essentially sociological in character, whose human content, both political and moral, established in its authenticity, has the value of an example.” (Introduction, page 20).
The intention was good. He believed himself to be qualified for that mission, and, perhaps, he was. He describes himself as, “ …having spent at least five years in captivity… having climbed up under the most painful circumstances, little by little reaching a position where he could see things clearly and exercise influence… as never having belonged to the camp police stooges… as never having dishonored himself in his conduct as a prisoner.” (Page 20)
After having been detailed for one year to the Effecktenkammer Kommando (the workshop where clothing was made), a privileged job, he became secretary to the S.S. camp physician, Doctor Ding-Schuller, an even more privileged job. In this job he was in a position to become acquainted in detail with all of the intrigues of the camp which occurred during the last two years of his internment.
After reading it, I closed the book. Then I opened it again, and under the heading of the title page I wrote, as a subtitle: Plaidoyer pro domo (plea in self-defense).
I. The Prisoner Eugen Kogon
At Buchenwald there was a “Section for the study of typhus and viruses.” It occupied Blocks 46 and 50. In charge of this laboratory was the S.S. camp physician, Doctor Ding-Schuller. This is the way it operated:
In Block 46 at Buchenwald camp which was a model of cleanliness, and very well managed experiments were not only carried out on the men, but all the typhus cases were isolated, those who had contracted it in the camp as a matter of course, and those who had been brought to the camp when they were already affected. They were cured there, insofar as they could weather this terrible sickness. The running of the Block had been put in the hands of Arthur Dietzch… one of the prisoners…who had gotten his medical knowledge only through this experience.  Dietzch was a Communist who had been a political prisoner for nearly twenty years. He was a very hardened person, naturally one of the most hated and feared at Buchenwald.
Since the S.S. and the under-officers of the camp had an unconquerable fear of contagion, and since they thought typhus could be picked up simply by contact, in the air, from the cough of someone sick, etc… they never went into Block 46… The prisoners took advantage of that, in collaboration with Kapo Dietzch: the illegal management of the camp made use of this, on the one hand, to get rid of those who were collaborating with the S.S. against the prisoners (or who seemed to be collaborating, or who were just plain unpopular), on the other hand, to conceal in Block 46 certain important political prisoners whose lives were threatened, which was sometimes very difficult and very dangerous for Dietzch, since his servants and nurses were all “greens.” (Page 162, emphasis added.)
In Block 50, a vaccine was made up for exanthematous typhus, from the lungs of mice and rabbits, in line with the procedure of Professor Giroud (of Paris). This was begun in August 1943. The camp’s best specialists, doctors, bacteriologists, serum specialists, chemists, were chosen for this work, etc… (Page 163)
And this is how Eugen Kogon got assigned to his position.
One of the crafty political aims of the prisoners, from the beginning, was to bring into this Kommando comrades of every nationality, whose lives were threatened, since the S.S. had as respectful a fear of this Block as of Block 46. This fetishist fear on the part of the S.S. was sustained as much by S.S. Dr. Ding-Schuller, as by the prisoners, but for different reasons (for example, by posting bulletins on the barbed wire that isolated the Block). Candidates for death, such as the Dutch physician Van Lingen, the architect Harry Pieck and other Netherlanders, the Polish doctor, Dr. Marian Ciepielowski (production chief in this service), Professor Dr. Balachowsky, of the Pasteur Institute at Paris, the author of this work, in his capacity as an Austrian publicist, and seven Jewish comrades, found refuge in this Block, with Dr. Ding-Schuller’s approval (Page 163, emphasis added.)
It must be admitted that Eugen Kogon had put himself in serious pawn to the “Communist” nucleus that was preponderant in the camp — in the face of other “green” groups, politicals and even Communists! — in order to get assigned by them to this position of confidence. And, that assignment was made “with the approval of Doctor Ding-Schuller” it must be remembered. Now this is what he could do in this position:
As a result of the requests which, every time, I suggested, drew up, and presented for signature, they were protected from sudden roundups, extermination transports, etc…(Page 183)
During the last two years which I spent as secretary to the doctor, I wrote out, with the help of the specialist of Block 50, at least half a dozen medical communications on exanthematous typhus …which were signed by Dr. Schuller. I will mention only in passing that I was also assigned to take care of a part of his private correspondence, including love and condolence letters. Often, he did not even read the answers; he threw me the letters after having opened them, and said to me, “Fix that up, Kogon. You know what to reply. It’s some widow looking for consolation…” (Page 270)
And, he could state, “I had Dr. Ding-Schuller in the palm of my hand,” (Page 218), and to such an extent that the fact that he was “on bad terms with the Kapo of Block 46” did not disturb him at all.
Clearly, on the basis of the preceding quotations, Kogon knew how to get into the graces of the influential clique in the Haeftlingsfuehrung, while, at the same time, staying in the graces of one of the highest S.S. authorities of the camp. All of those persons who have lived in a concentration camp will agree that such a position could not be engineered without infringing upon the rules of morality which are customarily observed outside the camps.
II. The Method
In order to dispel certain fears, and to show that this report [that is what he calls his Enfer organise ] cannot be construed as an accusation against certain prisoners who held dominant positions, I read it aloud, at the beginning of the month of May 1945, as soon as it was down on paper, lacking only the last two chapters out of a total of twelve, to a group of fifteen people, who had been members of the clandestine government of the camp, or who represented certain political alignments among the prisoners. These persons approved its accuracy and its objectivity. Present at the reading were:
- Walter Bartel, Communist from Berlin, president of the international committee in the camp.
- Heinz Baumeister, Social, from Dortmund, who for years had been a member of the Buchenwald Secretariat; second secretary of Block 50.
- Ernst Busse, Communist, from Solingen, Kapo of the prisoners' infirmary.
- Boria Banilenko, head of Communist youth groups in the Ukraine, member of the Russian committee.
- Hans Eiden, Communist, from Trier, first camp elder.
- Baptiste Feflen, Communist, from Aix-la-Chapelle, washhouse Kapo.
- Franz Hackel, Left independent, from Prague. One of our friends, without position in the camp.
- Stephan Heymann, Communist, from Mannheim, member of camp information office.
- Werner Hilpert, Centrist, from Leipzig, member of the international committee in the camp.
- Otto Horn, Communist, from Vienna, member of the Austrian committee.
- A. Kaltschin, Russian prisoner of war, member of the Russian committee.
- Otto Kipp, Communist, from Dresden, assistant Kapo of the prisoners' infirmary.
- Ferdinand Romhild, Communist, from Frankfurt am Main, first secretary of the prisoners' infirmary.
- Ernst Thappe, Social, head of the German committee.
- Walter Wolff, Communist, head of the camp information office. (Page 20-21)
This perfunctory statement, in itself, is enough to render suspect the entire testimony: “In order to dispel certain fears, and to show that this report cannot be construed as an accusation against certain prisoners who held dominant positions in the — camp… “ Thus has Eugen Kogon avoided reporting anything accusatory against the Haeftlingsfuehrung; rather, he harbored grievances only against the S.S. No historian could ever accept that. On the contrary, one is justified in thinking that in this way he has paid a debt of gratitude to those who got him his privileged positions in the camp and that he has chosen to defend those with whom he had common interests, as well as himself, before the public.
And, besides, the fifteen persons listed who passed judgment on his “accuracy and objectivity” are suspect. They are all Communists or fellow-travelers, and if, by chance, there was an exception, he could only be under obligation to the others. Lastly, the list is made up of the highest functionaries of the Haeftlingsfuehrung of Buchenwald who, naturally, are likely to share Kogon’s point of view.
I consider such titles as “president” or “member” of this or that “committee” with which they are tricked out to be meaningless. They awarded such titles to themselves at the time of the liberation of the camp by the Americans, or even afterwards. And, I pay little attention to the notion of “committees", for reasons which I have dealt with elsewhere. As I see it, these fifteen persons were only too happy to find in Eugen Kogon an artful pen with which to free them from all the responsibility for their actions in the camp in the eyes of posterity.
III. The Haeftlingsfuehrung
It had the following duties: to maintain order in the camp; to maintain discipline in order to avoid the intervention of the S.S., etc…this made it possible to do away with the S.S. patrols in the camp; their task was to receive the new arrivals, this little by little eliminated the brutal wrangling of the S.S. It was a difficult and thankless job. The guards of Buchenwald camp very rarely struck blows, although there were often savage rows. The new arrivals, who came from other camps, were terrified at first when they were met by those who were guards at camp Buchenwald, but later they always came to appreciate how much better their reception had been than in other places…To be sure there was always this or that member of the camp guard who, judging by his way of expressing himself, aught to have been an S.S. But that didn’t matter much. The aim alone counted: To keep a nucleus of prisoners against the S.S. If the camp guard had not seen to an impeccable appearance of order in front of the S.S., what might not have become of the entire camp, and its thousands of prisoners, in the line of punitive labors and, last but not least, during the last days before liberation? (Page 62, emphasis added)
Looking back on my personal experience and on the reception that my convoy received at the two different camps, it is not possible for me to concede that it was any better at Buchenwald than it was at Dora. But, I must also acknowledge that conditions in general at Buchenwald and at Dora were not to be compared: the first was a sanatorium when compared to the second. But, to conclude that the relatively better conditions of Buchenwald were due to a difference in the make-up, the nature, and the political and philosophical convictions between the two Haeftlingsfuehrung would be an error. If they had been transposed en bloc, the result would have been the same. In both cases, their behavior was governed by the overall conditions of existence in each camp, and over these factors they had no control.
At the time of which Eugen Kogon is speaking, Buchenwald was at the end of its evolution. Almost everything had been completed: the various services were installed and things were in order. The S.S. guards themselves, having to face fewer of the worries that always accompany disorder, settled into a routine that was almost without mishaps; in short, their nerves were much less on edge. At Dora, on the other hand, the camp was in full construction; everything had to be built and put into place with the limited resources of a country at war. Disorder was the natural state of things. Everything was in a jumble. The S.S. were unapproachable, and the Haeftlingsfuehrung, not knowing what to do to please them, often exceeded their desires. But, at Buchenwald, the exactions of a Kapo or a camp elder, identical in their motives and aims, were less comprehensive, because, with conditions in every way better, the consequences were not so serious for the mass of the prisoners.
As additional support for this contention, is the fact that in the fall of 1944, when Dora was, in its turn, almost completed, and with the Haeftlingsfuehrung having in no way modified its conduct, the material and moral conditions there could stand comparison with Buchenwald. Unfortunately, at that moment the end of the war was imminent, the bombings had interfered — with the getting of supplies, and the advance of the Allies on two fronts had caused the overpopulation of Dora with prisoners who had been evacuated from camps in the East and the West. As a consequence, everything in the camp was in turmoil again.
There remains to be discussed the line of reasoning according to which it was important, in order to maintain a nucleus against the S.S., to substitute a prisoner bureaucracy for them. But, since the whole camp was naturally against the S.S., I do not understand this reasoning. It could be argued that it would have been better to keep everyone alive to oppose the S.S. guards, and not just a nucleus of prisoners who were under their orders, if only to create extra difficulties for them… Instead of that, a method was used which, while it saved that precious nucleus, it killed the mass. As Eugen Kogon recognizes, after David Rousset, urbanity was not the only thing that came into the discussion:
In fact, the prisoners never received the scant rations which were in principle meant for them. First, the S.S. took what they pleased. Then the prisoners who worked in the food storehouses and in the kitchens worked it so they could set apart an ample share. Then the heads of the barracks diverted a good lot for themselves and for their friends. The rest went to the miserable ordinary prisoners. (Page 107)
There is room here to point out that everyone who had a shred of authority in the camp was by that very fact in a position to “set apart": the camp elder who delivered the rations in bulk; the Kapo and the Block chief who helped themselves copiously in the first place; the foreman and the ward keeper who cut the bread or put soup into the bowls; the police; the secretary, etc… It is strange that Kogon does not mention this fact. All of these people literally gorged themselves on what they stole, and walked around the camp with prosperous appearances. Not the slightest scruple stopped them:
In the prisoners' infirmary in the camps there was special food for the sick, which was called “the diet.” It was very much sought after as a supplement, and most of it was diverted to the profit of the camp personages: Block elders, Kapos, etc… In every camp could be found communists or criminals who for years received in addition to their other advantages, the extras for the sick. It was above all a matter of good relations with the kitchen for the sick, composed exclusively of people belonging to that category of prisoners who dominated the camp, or of an exchange of services rendered: the Kapos of the sewing shop, cobbler, clothing storehouse, tool house, etc…, turned over, in exchange for this food, what was asked of them. In Buchenwald, from 1939 to 1941, nearly forty thousand eggs were made away with in this way, right inside the camp. (Pages 110-112,emphasis added.)
Meanwhile, the sick in the infirmary were dying from the lack of this special food which the S.S. had intended for them. In explaining the mechanics of the thievery, Kogon just calls it an aspect of “system D", indiscriminately used by all of the prisoners who were involved with the distribution of the food. Such a characterization is both inaccurate and charitable, with regard to the Haeftlingsfuehrung.
The worker, in whatever Kommando, could not steal, because the Kapo and the foreman, all set to denounce him, watched him very closely. At the most when the distribution of rations was made, he could risk taking something from one of his fellow sufferers. But, the Kapo and the foreman, working together, could set aside something from the supply of rations, before distribution, and this they cynically did. And this “setting aside” was done with impunity, too, because they could not be denounced except through the chain of command, that is, through themselves. They stole for themselves, for their friends, for those in authority to whom they were indebted for their positions, and, in the higher ranks of the hierarchy, for the S.S., from whom they hoped to keep or get protection.
As for the diet of the sick, the Kapo of the infirmary — the very one who attested to the accuracy and the objectivity of Kogon’s testimony — expropriated a considerable quantity for the benefit of his colleagues and the accredited Communists.  During my stay at Buchenwald, every morning he set aside some milk, about a liter, and some other delicacies, for Erich, chief of Block 48. Multiply this example of plunder by the number of persons in the whole camp, who also had the opportunity to steal, and one can see the amount of milk which the sick in the infirmary never received. Compared to this kind of theft, the petty scroungings along the food distribution circuit were insignificant.
Thus, whether it is a question of the normal rations or the “diet” for the sick, the common mass of prisoners had two reasons for dying of hunger: the food that was taken by the S.S. and the food that was taken by the Haeftlingsfuehrung. The rank and file prisoners also had two reasons for being beaten and for being maltreated in general: the Kapo who stole extra, also hit harder to please the S.S. and it was rare when a simple reprimand from a S.S. guard did not bring on, in addition, a whole rain of blows from the Kapo. Given these conditions, there were few prisoners who did not prefer to deal directly with the S.S.
IV. The Arguments
The arguments that are used to justify the protection of a nucleus of “elite” prisoners at the expense of the common masses of prisoners are in no way more convincing than the facts. Without this prisoner elite, “what would have become of the entire camp, especially at the moment of liberation?” Kogon asks himself fearfully. From what has been said, it is already clear that the common prisoners would have had one less reason to die ("crever") at the rate they were dying. It is not enough of an answer for him to add, “It was thus that the first American tanks, coming from the Northwest, found Buchenwald liberated,” (Page 304) and to give the credit for that liberation to the Haeftlingsfuehrung. To make such an assertion does not make it true. With such an argument, one could also say that the American Army entered a liberated France, and that, too, would be ridiculous. The truth of the matter is that the S.S. withdrew before the American advance, and, trying to take with them as many prisoners as possible, they set the Haeftlingsfuehrung personnel, bludgeons in hand, to round up as many prisoners as possible throughout the camp.
Thanks to the willing cooperation of the Haeftlingsfuehrung, the manhunt took place with a minimum of disorder. And, if by some miraculous chance the American offensive had been stopped before the camp, and a vigorous German counteroffensive had reversed the outcome of the war, this reasoning would offer a sure advantage as revealed in these lines:
The S.S. staffs of the camps were not capable of enforcing on tens of thousands of prisoners more than an outward and sporadic control. (Page 275)
In other words, with a victorious Germany each member of the Haeftlingsfuehrung of the camp could have pleaded his personal contribution to the maintenance of order and his loyalty, in an effort to obtain his liberation. And, the lines that we have just read could have appeared without the changing of a comma.
Through ceaseless struggle, the system of the S.S., to mix together the various categories of prisoners, to encourage natural antagonisms and to provoke artificial ones, had to be broken and made inoperable. The reasons for that were clear to the reds. With the greens it was not at all political reasons; they wanted to be able to have a free course for their customary practices: corruption, extortion, the seeking of material advantages. Any control was insupportable to them, especially that from within the camp itself. (Page 278)
It is obvious that no matter what system the S.S. used it had to become inoperable from the moment when, used by others for the same purposes, it was applied to the same object and in the same way. Even more: it was useless. The S.S. no longer had any need to hit men, since those to whom they had delegated their power did the hitting better; nor to steal, since their minions stole better and the benefits were the same, if not more substantial; nor to kill slowly to make order respected, because others did that for them, and order in the camp was all the more perfect for it.
In spite of what Kogon says, I never observed that the intervention of the camp bureaucracy had any effect on the “natural antagonisms” between prisoners or that the various categories of prisoners were less “mixed together” than had been intended by the S.S.
Moreover, the integration of the whole prisoner population was not the objective of the Haeftlingsfuehrung, rather, to divide and rule, a principle that holds for any power wanting to maintain itself, was just as valid for the camp bureaucracy as for the S.S. In practice, while the latter vaguely set the mass of prisoners against those they had chosen to rule them, the former played with political nuances, with the nature of the crime, and with the selection of a nucleus of men of a certain mentality.
What is amusing — from a distance — in Kogon’s thesis, is the distinction he drew between the “reds” and the “greens” concerning the manner in which each group exercised its power, accusing the latter of corruption, bribery, and self-seeking. What did the “reds” do that was not all of that? And, for the ordinary prisoner, what difference did it make to him who was in power, when it was impossible for him to see any resulting difference.
What happened in the concentration camps was that in the struggle to keep alive, appetites more or less understandable took precedence over all moral principles. At the bottom of everything was the basic desire to survive. Along with this desire, among, the less scrupulous, went the need to steal food, and then the need to clan together in order to steal food better. Those who were the most skillful at organizing in order to get better nourishment — i.e., the politicals, since under the circumstances the task of organizing called more for cleverness than strength — were then the most able to obtain power, because they were better fed. And once in power, they were also better able to hold onto it, because they were intellectually more adept. But, no moral principle, in the sense that it is understood in the world outside of the concentration camps, played any part in this evolution, except by its absence. And, then to write:
In every camp the political prisoners tried to take in hand the internal administrative machinery or, as the case might be, struggled to hold onto it. This in order to defend itself by every means against the S.S., not just to fight the hard battle for life, but also to further, insofar as possible, the disintegration and crushing of the system. In more than one camp, the leaders of the political prisoners, for years, worked at this end, with admirable perseverance, and complete contempt for death. (Page 275, emphasis added.)
This statement is only pap, whose laudatory tone fails to hide the fact that it puts all of the political prisoners — even those who never wanted to exercise any authority over their fellow sufferers — in a class with the least scrupulous of them. Nor, does the admission "defend itself by every means …" help either. “By every means:” this is what that could mean:
When the S.S. asked the politicals to make a selection of those prisoners “unfit to live,”  in order to kill them, and that a refusal might have meant the end of the control of the reds and a return of the greens, then they had to be prepared to take the burden of that transgression. Their only choice lay between taking an active participation in that selection, or a possible withdrawal of their responsibilities in the camp, which, after all that had already been experienced, could have had even worse consequences. The more tender the conscience, the harder it was to make this decision. But since it had to be made, and without delay, it was better for it to lie in the hands of those of strong constitution, so that we would not all be made martyrs. (Page 327)
I have already remarked that it was not a question of selecting the unfit to live, but, rather, the unfit for work. The difference is considerable. If one wants to overlook it at any cost, I submit that it would have been better to “risk a possible (10) withdrawal of their responsibilities in the camp” than to have burdened their collective conscience with this “active participation” that was always so zealously carried out. Maybe, the “greens” would have come back to power? But, so what? In the first place, they were not likely to have retained it. And, in the second place, the “greens” would not have behaved any worse than the “reds” with regard to the mass of the prisoners. They would not have selected any greater number of prisoners as unfit; nor would they have taken any less account of the background of the designated prisoners, because, in these selections, the “reds” were no less concerned than the “greens” over political caste. The fact was that the Haeftlingsfuehrung, whether “green” or “red,” used the selection procedure as a method of getting rid of potential rivals.
Consequently, and, if it meant assuming the same moral burden, why take power away from the “greens,” or seek to prevent them from holding it? It is possible that with the “greens” in power, the selection of the unfit, with a few exceptions, might not have been the same. But, nothing would have been changed as far as the number of unfit was concerned, since that figure was determined by the general work statistics and the amount of provisions available in the camp for the support of non-working prisoners. Under such circumstances, Eugen Kogon himself might perhaps not have been in a position to become, or to remain, the secretary and aide-de-camp to the S.S. camp physician Dr. Ding-Schuller, and, once returned to the mass of common prisoners, and once beaten and starved, perhaps he, too, might have been included among the number of those found to be “unfit.” Probably the same thing could have happened to the fifteen others who sanctioned his testimony. Then, had this most unthinkable of catastrophes actually occurred, only this could have happened: these fifteen would have been “made martyrs,” while others would have continued to live as witnesses.
As if it mattered to History whether Kogon and his associates or some others were witnesses, like Michelin de Clermont, Fernand, Francois de Tessan, Doctor Seguin, Cremieux, Desnos, among others… When Kogon said “so that we would not all be made martyrs,” he was referring, of course, only to the privileged prisoners among the Haeftlingsfuehrung, and not to all of the politicals who, in spite of what has been said, made up the majority of the prison population. Not for an instant did Kogon think that by being satisfied with eating less and with beating less, the concentration camp bureaucracy could have saved almost all of the prisoners; if that had happened, today we would reap only benefits in that they too would be witnesses.
How could a man as informed as Kogon, and affecting a degree of culture, have arrived at such garbled conclusions? The reason may be seen in the fact that he tried to judge the prisoners and guards, and the events that took place in the world of the concentration camp, by the standards of the outside world. We do the same thing when we form an opinion about what is taking place in the Soviet Union or in Red China, based on the moral codes of the western world, and the Russians and the Chinese do the same to us. On both sides of the “Iron Curtain,” an Order has been created, and making it function has given rise to a type of men whose conceptions of social life and of individual conduct are different and, indeed, even opposite in nature.
The same is true of the concentration camps: ten years of existence were enough to create an Order within the camps, and all must be judged on its terms. In particular, this Order gave rise to a new type of man, who can be classed somewhere between the common prisoner and the political prisoner. The characteristic feature of this new type of man resulted from the fact that the common prisoner corrupted the political prisoner, made him almost like the former, without troubling his conscience very much. It was to this level that the camp was reduced by those who had conceived of it. The camp gave direction to the reactions of all of the prisoners, “green” or “red,” and not the reverse. With this fact established — and to the extent that one is willing to admit that it is not a mental fabrication — the moral code of the world outside the concentration camps can pardon what happened in the camps, but it can in no case justify what happened there.
V. The Conduct of the S.S.
I put side by side two statements:
Those prisoners who maltreated their comrades, or even beat them to death, were certainly never punished by the S.S. but were turned over to the justice of the prisoners. (Page 98)
One morning a prisoner was found hanged in a Block. An investigation was started and it was seen that the “hanged” man had died after having been horribly beaten and trampled on, and that the barracks man, under the direction of the Block elder Osterloh,  had then hanged him to make it look like a suicide. The victim had protested against a misappropriation of bread by the barracks man. The S.S. staff succeeded  in hushing the matter up and put the murderer back in his post so that nothing was changed. (Page 50)
It is true that the S.S. personnel did not usually intervene in the disputes among the prisoners and that one waited in vain for any pronouncement of justice from them. It could not be otherwise, since “they did not know what was actually happening behind the barbed wire.” (Page 275) The reason for this ignorance on the part of the S.S. was that the Haeftlingsfuehrung made every effort to see to it that they were kept in the dark concerning the day to day happenings in the camp. By setting itself up as a veritable “court of prisoners,” and by profiting from the fact that no appeal could be made against its decisions, the Haeftlingsfuehrung never had need for recourse to the S.S. except to strengthen its own authority if it felt that it was weakening. In any case, the camp bureaucrats did not like to see the intervention of the S.S. for fear that the S.S. would be less severe, a situation which would have brought their authority into question with the mass of prisoners. In addition, such intervention might have caused the S.S. to question their ability to govern, which, in turn, might have caused them to be relieved from their duties and to be returned to the rank and file. As a practical matter, there existed an implicit operating procedure between the Haeftlingsfuehrung and the S.S.: the Haeftlingsfuehrung “avoided trouble” by preventing the various camp happenings from seeping through the screen of its own edifice, and the S.S. made no attempt to know what was going on in the camp as long as order was maintained.
In the specific case which Kogon mentions, if Block Chief Osterloh had been a “red,” nothing concerning the matter would have reached the ears of the S.S. other than the fact that the victim had been a suicide, a fact which would not have resulted in any difficulties. But, he was a “green", and he represented one of the last elements of power which his category still held in the camp. The “reds” denounced him in the hope of getting rid of him. However, the S.S. did not settle the matter in the way that they had hoped. This is the way of the Order: a Block Chief, even guilty, could not be questioned or punished except by some higher authority, and, in no case, could he be punished from the prisoner masses. Whether a “green” or a “red,” that is the way that it was.
One can reverse the facts of the preceding example and make Osterloh the victim, and his victim the murderer. In such a case, the Haeftlingsfuehrung itself would have reacted this way: without worrying about Osterloh’s color, it would have felt itself attacked or threatened in its prerogatives and would have sent for the S.S. — demanding an exemplary punishment unless, which is more likely, it had first given the punishment — in which case it would only have asked the S.S. to approve it. In the first situation, the S.S. would forward the matter to a higher echelon and would wait for a decision. In the meantime, blows would rain down from everywhere on the murderer as he would be taken to the Bunker (13) where he would be subjected to further corporal punishment. In the second situation, the S.S. would endorse the action of the Haeftlingsfuehrung, precisely to avoid the demands for explanations, and the sundry other difficulties, that would be forthcoming from that higher echelon. In both cases, nothing would happen that was not compatible with the Order.
The authorities in Berlin had to intervene in the Osterloh affair, to which the “reds” had imprudently given the character of a matter of conscience in which honesty attacked the Order; this intervention stirred up so many difficulties that the S.S. staff at Buchenwald had no choice but to succeed in hushing the matter up. Besides, generally speaking, the S.S. staff personnel did not like to refer matters to Berlin. They feared the delays, the unaccustomed attention, indeed the scruples, which could cause troubles, the chief one being the transfer to another unit, which in war time could be most consequential. In order to hush things up, Berlin was kept in almost complete ignorance of what was happening and was informed only of what could not be concealed. The S.S. staff of Buchenwald exercised maximum control on the spot.
To the reader who might think that I have exaggerated with regard to the state of ignorance of the authorities in Berlin, permit me to point to the present situation in France. There, the Ministers of Justice and of National Education do not know what really takes place in the prisons, and the so-called houses of correction. For example, the disciplinary practices of the minor prison authorities are generally in constant and flagrant violation of the official regulations, and no one — either in the Ministries or among the general public — knows anything about it, except when there is an occasional scandal. And so it is in every country in the world that there is a “universe” of delinquents living on the fringe of the other, lifers, of whom the chaouch is king. Within the limits of that “universe” are also the colonial peoples; and the Colonial Ministers and the Ministers of War, to whom they are subject, are also generally ignorant of the conduct of their adjutants, unless, and until, some particularly abhorrent behavior on the part of their subordinates comes to light which, because of political considerations, cannot be ignored.
And, here is another citation from Kogon which is just as significant:
Visits of the S.S. frequently took place in the camps. When this happened, the S.S. staff went through an astonishing procedure: on the one hand they concealed all side structures; On the other they organized regular displays. Anything that might have led anyone to suspect that the prisoners were tortured was passed over in silence by the guides, and they were concealed. It was in this manner that the famous torture rack which was on the mustering grounds was hidden in one of the barracks until the visitors left. It seems that once they overlooked these prudent measures: when a visitor asked what the thing was, one of the camp chiefs answered that it was a carpentry model for making special forms. The gallows and the stakes on which the prisoners were hanged were also put out of sight each time. The visitors were conducted through “model — installations:” infirmary, cinema, kitchen, library, stores, laundry, and the agriculture section. If they actually went into a block, it was where the barbers and the servants of the S.S. and a few privileged prisoners lived “detached,” blocks which for that reason were never over crowded and were always clean. In the kitchen garden as well as in the sculpture workshop, the S.S. visitors sometimes received presents as souvenirs. (Page 258)
This description is of Buchenwald. If one wants to know who these visitors were, we have this:
There were group visits, and visits of individuals. The latter were especially frequent during the vacations, when the S.S. showed the camp to their friends or relatives. These were also for the most part S.S. personnel or heads of the S.A., sometimes also officers of the Wehrmacht or the police. The group visits were of different kinds. We frequently saw batches of police or gendarme promotions from a near-by station, or batches of S.S. aspirants. After the war began, visits from officers of the Luftwaffe. From time to time, we also had visits from civilians. Once to Buchenwald there came youth delegations from the Fascist countries, who had come together at Weimar for some “cultural congress.” Groups of the Hitler youth also came to the camp. Distinguished visitors, such as Gauleiter Sauckel, police commissioner Hennicke of Weimar, Prince Waldeck Pyrmont, Count Ciano, Italian minister of foreign affairs, commanding officers of military divisions, Doctor Conti, and other visitors in that.
Thus were carefully hidden all traces of brutality not only from the general run of visitors, but also from those visitors who held the highest positions in the S.S. and in the Third Reich. I imagine that when these personages inspected Dachau and Birkenau, as well as other camps, explanations as pertinent as that which was given for the alleged torture rack at Buchenwald would have been given them for the alleged gas chambers at Birkenau. And, I ask this question: how can it be maintained after all this, that all of the horrors of which the camps were the stage were part of a plan that had been conceived “in high places?”
When, in spite of all that was kept hidden, the authorities in Berlin discovered something awry in the administration of the camps, the S.S. staffs were called to account. An example is provided by a directive coming from the Chief of Section D, dated April 4. 1942:
The Reichführer of the S.S. and Chief of the German police, has directed that concerning his orders for the bastonade (this applies to men as well as to women in preventive detention) it will be proper in cases where the word “aggravated” is attached, to apply the punishment on the naked posterior. In all other cases, the method customary up to the present will be used in conformity with previous instructions from the S.S. Reichführer.
Eugen Kogon, who cites this circular, adds:
In principle, before applying the bastonade, the camp staff had to ask approval from Berlin, and the camp physician had to certify to the S.S. W.V.H. that the prisoner was in good health. But it had been the custom for a long time in all the camps, right to the end in a great many of them, to send the prisoner first to the “rack” and to give him as many blows as was judged good. Then, after getting approval from Berlin, they began again, but this time officially. (Page 99)
It goes without saying that the bastonade was almost always applied to the naked posterior, and that it was to combat this abuse, and not to aggravate the punishment, that the directive in question was sent to all of the camps.
One can certainly be astonished and find it barbarous that the bastonade played any part in the punishment of the prisoners in the camps. But, the reason for its use is another story: in a country like Germany where until the end of the First World War it was prescribed as the most lenient of punishments, under the name of “Schlag,” it is not so surprising that its use was retained by the National Socialists for the punishment of major criminals, especially when we remember that the government of the Weimar Republic was not disturbed by its use. On the other hand, it is more astonishing — in view of the reams of French governmental circulars that have denied the use of the bastonade for almost a century — that thousands of Negroes in the French colonies continue to suffer such punishment, and in actual fact suffer it “with naked posterior,” since they have the misfortune, in addition, to live in those regions of the earth where they would have no reason to clothe themselves except for protection from the bastonade.
Another directive, dated December 28, 1942, emanating from the central S.S. office concerned with economic administration and bearing the signature of General Kludre of the S.S. and the Waffen S.S., says:
… The camp doctors should supervise the food of the prisoners more than they have up to the present, and in agreement with the administration, they should submit to the commanding officer of the camp their suggestions for improvement. The latter should not just remain on paper, but be regularly checked by the camp physicians. It is necessary that the mortality rate be appreciably lowered in each camp, since the number of the prisoners must be brought back to the level required by the Reichführer S.S. The head doctors of the camp shall do everything possible to achieve this. The best doctor in a concentration camp is not the one who thinks it helpful to call attention to himself through uncalled for harshness, but the one who maintains to the highest possible degree the capacity for work in every shop, by keeping an eye on the health of the workers, and in making adjustments. (Pages 111, 141)
As was mentioned in the previous chapter, David Rousset published a collection of documents relating to alleged German atrocities of all sorts under the title Le Pitre ne rit pas; however, Rousset does not discuss the second of the two documents that are cited above because it destroys much of his argument. He does cite the first document, but he does so in a completely twisted sense. In this respect, although there are reasons for distrusting Kogon’s interpretations, we must rejoice in the fact that he was objective enough to include the second. Perhaps, there may exist more documents which support my thesis and which lie still in German archives, or in those of the Allied victors, and which have not been brought to light yet …
VI. Health Personnel
In the first years the hospital staff was incompetent. But little by little it acquired a great deal of practical experience. The head Kapo of the infirmary at Buchenwald was a printer by trade; his successor, Walter Kramer, was a strong and courageous person, a hard worker, and with a sense of organization. With time he became a remarkable specialist in wounds and operations. Through his position, the Kapo of the infirmary exercised, in all the camps, a considerable influence on overall living conditions. So the prisoners  never put a specialist into that position, although it might have been possible in numerous camps, but rather a person who was completely devoted to the ruling clique in the camp. When, for example, in November 1941, the Kapo Kramer and his closest collaborator Peix were shot by the S.S., the post of head of the infirmary did not go to a doctor, but was given, on the contrary, to a former Communist deputy to the Reichstag, Ernst Busse, who, with his assistant Otto Kipp from Dresden, concerned himself with the purely administrative side  of that service, whose activity never ceased growing, and played a large part in the greater stabilization of living conditions. A specialist put at the head of that service would, without any doubt, have brought catastrophe on the camp, because he never would have been able to dominate all the complicated and far-reaching intrigues, the outcome of which was very often fatal. (Page 135, emphasis added.)
One trembles at the thought that such a line of reasoning could have been advanced by Kogon, without batting an eye, and broadcast to the public, without rousing waves of indignant protest. To understand the full horror, it is important to know that in his turn the Kapo chose his assistants for reasons that had nothing to do with their competence as medical practitioners. And, to think that these so-called “leaders of the Prisoners,” who exposed thousands of miserable men to various brutalities and who stole their food, had them treated, without being forced to do it by the S.S., by people who were absolutely incompetent.
The drama began at the entrance to the infirmary:
When the sick man finally got there, he first had to stand in line outside, no matter what the weather, and with his shoes cleaned. Since it was not possible to examine all the sick, and since there were always among them prisoners who only had the understandable desire to escape work, a sturdy doorman, a prisoner, proceeded to make the first basic selection of the sick. (Page 130, emphasis added.)
The Kapo, chosen because he was a Communist, picked out a doorman, not because he was capable of telling the sick from the malingerers, or of distinguishing those who were more sick from those who were less, but because he was husky, and was able to give a good thrashing to anyone who tried to get past him without permission. It goes without saying that he was kept in good shape with extra food rations. The reasons for the choice of the nurses and the doctors, if not quite the same, were just as nobly inspired. When, finally, there were prisoners who were medical doctors in the camp infirmaries, it was because the S.S. insisted on it. I pass over the humiliations, even the retaliatory measures, which these doctors were made to suffer every time that the demands of their consciences came into conflict with the demands of politics and intrigue.
Eugen Kogon saw benefits in the procedure: Kapo Kramer had become “a remarkable specialist in wounds and operations,” and he adds:
A good friend of mine, Willi Jellineck, was a pastry cook in Vienna ….. At Buchenwald he was undertaker, a zero in the camp hierarchy. As a Jew, young, tall, and uncommonly strong, he had small chance of surviving during Koch’s time. And yet, what did he become? Our best tuberculosis expert, a remarkable practitioner who helped many a comrade, and, in addition, was the bacteriologist of Block 50 … (Page 324)
I am willing to disregard the use made of, and the fate of, the professional doctors whom the Haeftlingsfuehrung considered, individually and collectively, less useful than comrades Kramer and Jellineck. I am also willing to disregard the number of the dead who paid for the training and the remarkable expertise of the latter. But, if it can be conceded that these considerations are of negligible significance, then there is no reason for not extending this practice into the non-concentration camp world. In pursuit of this goal, one could issue two decrees at once: the first would disband all of the schools of medicine and replace them with training centers for pastry cooks and machinists, the second would dispatch to the kitchen or factory all of the doctors who are practicing, and would replace them with pastry cooks and machinists who are Communists or fellow-travelers. I do not doubt that the latter would emerge from such a reversal of roles in an honorable fashion; instead of blaming them for the deaths that they would cause, they would be credited for their adroitness in surviving all of the intrigues of political life. That is one way of looking at it.
From the beginning, the prisoners attached to the dental staff tried to help their comrades as much as possible. In all the dental centers they worked clandestinely, running great risks, and in a way hard to imagine. They made dentures, artificial parts, bridges, for those prisoners whose teeth had been broken by the S.S., or who had lost them because of the general conditions of life. (Page 131)
This statement is correct. But the “comrades” who were helped were always the same: a Kapo, a Block chief, a camp elder, a secretary, etc …Those among the mass of prisoners who had lost their teeth for the reasons given above died without having recovered their loss with artificial teeth, or, if they survived, they had to wait for the liberation to be cared for. But, the clandestine nature of this work was very peculiar in view of the fact that it had the previous consent of the S.S.:
During the war, 1939-1940, they managed to set up a clandestine operation ward, thanks to the close collaboration of a series of Kommandos, and with the secret consent of the S.S. Doctor Blies… (Page 132)
The scope and the impact of this revelation can be appreciated when one realizes that the dental and medical installations in the camps were intended for the benefit of all of the prisoners in all of the camps and, that, thanks to the complicity of certain well placed S.S. personnel, these facilities were diverted to the sole benefit of the Haeftlingsfuehrung. In my opinion, if those who proceeded to misuse those facilities “ran great risks,” that was only very just … as seen from below.
Eugen Kogon himself feels the weakness of this reasoning:
In the last year, the internal administration of Buchenwald was so closely organized that the S.S. no longer had any say over certain very important internal matters. Tired, the S.S. was now accustomed to “let things go,” and on the whole the politicals had a free hand… Most certainly it was always the directing clique, which identified itself more or less with the active anti-fascist forces, that most profited from the state of affairs: the mass of prisoners benefited only at times, and indirectly, mostly in that they no longer had to fear the intervention of the S.S., since those running the prisoners had taken steps on their own authority in the interests of all. (Page 284)
Obviously, it can be explained that if the S.S. “… let things go, and on the whole the politicals had a free hand,” it was because the S.S. were “tired” or “accustomed to doing so.” This is a way of looking at things. But, I am more persuaded to believe that this delegation of authority by the S.S. was due to the fact that the politicals had proven their devotion to the maintenance of order, on numerous occasions, and thus had established a “track record” from which the S.S. deduced that they could be trusted to assume a great deal of responsibility.
As for the “steps [taken] …in the interest of all,” they might have prevented the intervention of the S.S., but it was precisely this lack of intervention by the S.S. which gave a free hand to the Haeftlingsfuehrung a fact which, in turn, had a catastrophic effect on the mass of prisoners. It is better to be dealt with by God than by his saints. Furthermore if power becomes consolidated to the degree that it succeeds in neutralizing the possible opposition, reciprocally, it grows weaker from dissensions among those who share it. Looked at in this way, the S.S., by exercising a constant and meticulous control over everything that took place in the camp, would have substituted mistrust for an attitude of connivance in all of its relations with the Haeftlingsfuehrung. That the S.S. did not want that is easily understood. But, the Haeftlingsfuehrung did not want it either; this prisoner bureaucracy had deliberately crossed the Rubicon, and, although it might have shared the common lot with the mass of the prisoners of the concentration camps, it preferred, whatever the rancor of the mass, to collaborate with the S.S. and to enjoy the benefits derived from such collaboration.
VIII. Cinema, sports
Once or twice per week, sometimes after quite long intervals, the cinema offered entertaining and documentary films. Given the frightful condition of life which prevailed in the camps, more than one comrade could not make up his mind to go to the cinema. (Page 128)
A strange thing, there was in the camps something that resembled sports. Yet the conditions of life did not lend themselves very well. There were, nevertheless, young men who thought they still had energy to expend, and they managed to get the authorization of the S.S. to play soccer. And, the weak who could just barely walk, those emaciated, exhausted men, half dead on their trembling legs, the starved, went with pleasure to this spectacle! (Page 124-125)
These weak, starved, half dead men who Eugen Kogon reports watched a game of soccer with pleasure, although standing, are the same who he thought, given the frightful conditions of existence, did not have the heart to go to a movie where one could sit down.
The truth is that the common prisoners did not go to the movies because every time that there was one, all of the seats were reserved by the Haeftlingsfuehrung people. It was different for soccer: the field was out in the open where everyone could see, and the surrounding grounds were big. Everyone could go. And, even so, some Kapo might take it into his head to break up the crowd of spectators and, with bludgeon in hand, chase all of those miserable men back toward the Blocks, on the pretext that they would profit more from their Sunday afternoon by resting!
As for the “young men who thought they still had energy to expend” and who made up the soccer teams, they were men of the Haeftlingsfuehrung or their proteges, who were stuffed with food that had been stolen from those who were watching them play; moreover, they did not have to work and were in good shape.
IX. The Brothel
The bordello was known by the modest title, Sonderbau [special house] …. For those who did not have connections high up, the length of visiting time was set at 20 minutes… The aim of the S.S. in this enterprise was to corrupt the politicals… The illegal management of the camp had given the order not to go there. On the whole, the politicals obeyed the order, so much so that the intentions of the S.S. were thwarted. (Pages 170-171)
Like the movie theater, the brothel was accessible only to the members of the Haeftlingsfuehrung, the only ones, in any case, who were in any state to find any use for it. No one complained about it, and there is not much point in any lengthy discussion about it. Nevertheless, I would like to point out that, according to Kogon “Some of the prisoners without morals, and among them a fairly large number of politicals, get themselves involved in frightful relations, after the arrival of the boys.” (Page 236.) My view is that the politicals would have done better by using the brothel, since they were given the opportunity to do so. Kogon’s praise for their refusal to use the brothel in order to avoid its “corrupting” influence becomes hollow when it appears that — instead of normal sexual relations — numerous politicals preferred the corruption of the young boys in the camp. I shall add that it was precisely to eliminate any excuse or any justification for this pederasty that the S.S. established brothels in all of the camps in the first place …
The S.S. staff put spies in the camps in order to be informed about what was going on inside… The S.S. only got results with spies selected within the camp itself: common criminals, the asocial, and sometimes the political also .. (Page 276)
It was very rare for the Gestapo to pick out prisoners in the camps to be spies and informers… The Gestapo probably had such bad experiences with this sort of thing that fortunately it only resorted to it in very rare cases. (Page 255)
It seems quite surprising that a procedure which brought about results when it was used by the S.S. should come to nothing when used by the Gestapo. It is, nevertheless, a matter of fact that the Gestapo very rarely resorted to the use of informers in the camps; it did not need to. Everyone in the concentration camps who occupied any position of power was more or less an informer who reported directly, or through an intermediary, to the S.S. When the Gestapo wanted some information about someone in the camps, it only had to ask the S.S…
Looked at closely, the camps were all caught in the web of a gigantic network of informers. Among the mass of prisoners were the little men, the professional cheats, who kept the Haeftlingsfuehrung informed, out of congenital servility, for a bit of soup, a piece of bread, a stick of margarine, etc… or even unwittingly. Above these petty informers was the entire Haeftlingsfuehrung which spied on the mass for the S.S. when there was the need. Finally, the Haeftlingsfuehrung people informed on each other. Under these circumstances, denounciation often assumed strange aspects:
Wolf (former S.S. officer, homosexual, camp elder in 1942) began denouncing other comrades for the benefit of his Polish friends (he was the lover of a Pole). On one occasion he was crazy enough to make threats. He knew that a German Communist from Magdeburg was to be freed. When he told him that he knew how to keep him from being freed, by telling on him for political activity in the camp, he was answered that the S.S. would be informed of his pederasty. The quarrel grew so bitter that the illegal direction of the camp forestalled action by the Fascist Poles by turning them over to the S.S. (Page 280, emphasis added.)
In other words, denunciation which was ignominous when it was done by the “greens,” became a virtue, even a preventive measure, when it was done by the “reds.” Happily, the “reds” could justify it by putting the label “Fascist” on the foreheads of their victims! And, this is a better example:
At Buchenwald in 1941, the most famous and most sinister case of voluntary denunciation was that of the white Russian emigre, Grogorij Kushnir-Kushnarev who claimed to be a former Czarist general, and who, for months, won the confidence of various groups, then proceeded to deliver into the hands of the S.S. comrades of all kinds, especially the Russian prisoners. This agent of the Gestapo, responsible for the death of hundreds of prisoners, also dared to denounce, in the most infamous way,  all those with whom he had any conflict, even for minor reasons… For a long time it was not possible to catch him alone, to kill him, because the S.S. watched over him very carefully. Finally they made him the director, in fact, of the secretariat of the prisoners. Once in that position he was not satisfied just to bring about the downfall of all those who failed to please him, he clogged the wheels of the prisoners' autonomous organization. Finally, at the beginning of 1942, he felt sick and was stupid enough to go to the infirmary. Thus, he put himself in the hands of his enemies. With the authorization of S.S. Doctor Hoven, who had long been mixed-up in this affair, and was on the side of the politicals, Kushnir was at once declared to be contagious, he was isolated, and a few hours later he was killed with an injection of poison. (Page 276, emphasis added.)
This Grogorij Kushnir-Kushnarev was probably guilty of all that he was accused of, but everyone who climbed the ladder in the hierarchy of power in the concentration camps and who occupied the same position, before or after him, behaved in the same way, and their consciences are charged with the same crimes. The only difference in the case of Mr. Kushnir-Kushnarev was the fact that he did not have Eugen Kogon’s approval… In any case, it is difficult to believe that the S.S., in the person of the S.S. Doctor Hoven, gratuitously took so active a part in his elimination.
Eugen Kogon adds: “I still remember the sigh of relief that went through the camp, when like lightning the news went around that Kushnir had died in the infirmary.” (Page 276, emphasis added.) The members of the clique that Kogon belonged to doubtless sighed with relief, and that fact is understandable since Kushnir’s death meant the assumption of more power. But, the sigh was only one of hope in the rest of the camp, since a death by execution of no matter what influential member of the Haeftlingsfuehrung was always greeted with some hope of finally seeing the common lot improved. After a short time, it was evident that nothing had changed, and, until the next execution, it was a matter of indifference to everyone whether they were sacrificed on the altar of truth or of lies.
It is known that in the camps the office of labor statistics, composed of prisoners, directed the use of manpower, subject to the instruction of the head of the labor force, and the labor office. As the years went on, the S.S. was overwhelmed with enormous demands. At Buchenwald, S.S. Hauptsturmfuhrer Schwartz tried only once himself to make up a transport of a thousand prisoners. After having kept almost the entire camp on the grounds for half a day, to review the men, he managed to collect 600 men. But those who had been examined and selected out, slipped away in all directions, and not one remained in Schwartz’s hands… (Page 286)
In my opinion, there was no drawback in having Schwartz’s experience repeated every time that the organization of a transport to some work area was attempted; if the S.S. had never succeeded, all the better. But, unfortunately, “from that moment, the head of the labor force turned over to the prisoners in the labor statistic bureau all questions of the distribution of labor.” (Ibid.) And, once that happened, it was no longer possible “to slip away in all directions” after the work force had been assembled on the mustering grounds, as had been the case with Schwartz. With rubber truncheons in hand, all of the Kapos, all of the Block Chiefs, all of the Lagerschutz (prisoner police), as well as others, set up a menacing barrier to any attempted flight. Compared with them, Hauptsturmführer Schwartz seemed innocuous. The Haeftlingsfuehrung people were Communists, anti-Fascist, and anti-Hitler, among other things, but, they could not bear to have anyone disturb the Hitlerian order of things or to weaken the war effort of the Third Reich by trying to escape from it. As compensation for their service to the Fuhrer, they were given power to designate those prisoners who would make up a transport, and they exercised their power with a zeal beyond all praise.
One result of “power gained through corruption” was the enrichment of one or several men at the expense of the others. Sometimes this reached shameful proportions in the camps, even in those where the politicals were in power. More than one who took advantage of his position lived the life of a prince, while his comrades died by the hundreds. When the cartons of food for the camp, containing fats, sausages, jams, flour, and sugar, were smuggled outside the camp by S.S. accomplices, to be sent to the families of the prisoners in question, one can hardly say it was justified. But most exasperating was when, at a time when the local S.S. were no longer wearing high boots but only regular army shoes, the members of the small clique of “caids” walked proudly around in stylish clothes, custom tailored, like dandies, some of them even with a little dog on a leash! That is a chaos of misery, filth, disease, famine and death! In this case, the “instinct for self-preservation” was carried beyond all reasonable limits and ended in a phariseeism, ridiculous to be sure, but hard as rock, badly out of tune with the social and political ideals proclaimed at the same time by these persons. (Page 287)
It was like that in all of the camps. And, with certain reservations, the reason for the horror could hardly be better described, or in fewer words: the instinct for self-preservation.
If one can end the commentary on this tableau, with the preceding observation, therein also lies the basis for pointing out that the instinct for self-preservation, an ancient conception, is quite another thing altogether from that taught by a puerile moral. From the fierce Guitton, besieged at La Rochelle by Richelieu, who had himself bled in order to feed his son on his cooked blood, to Saturn who devoured his children at birth to escape the death which the Titan threatened, self-preservation is susceptible to the most varied human reactions. In a culture which promotes the value of human life, one might think that there are more Guittons than Saturns. And, under normal conditions, the conduct of the majority of individuals would not allow one to affirm the contrary. But, this behavior is only part of the veneer of civilization, and one has only to scrape it a little — i.e., to change brutally the social conditions — in order to show what price human nature attaches to human life.
In the voices of all of the children of France, the good sense of the people cries out and echoes Il etait un petit navire… (There was a little ship…) and consoles itself, insofar as it believes, that it lessens the horror of the situation, by affirming that in order to find out who will be eaten, On tira a la courte paille (we will draw straws), rather than to leave the decision to a democratic majority. But, public opinion was not less indignant when it learned that that little ship had become the airplane of the Italian General Nobile, which had crash landed on the polar ice, and that the General could be said to have survived, until the arrival of the rescue expedition, only because he had eaten one or more of his comrades. If public opinion does not react violently against the self-serving accounts of the concentration camps by former Haeftlingsfuehrung people, it is because the fact is not clearly made that the concentration camp bureaucracy — using every method of corruption, keeping for itself all of the straws, and having the drawing done by the S.S. — did “eat” the mass of the prisoners.
Before the 1939 war, I myself knew many people who “preferred to die on their feet than to live on their knees.” Without doubt, they were sincere, but in the camps they lived prostrated in order to insure their survival. After returning to civilian life — or simply to life — they are still just as uncompromising about this precept, unaware of the defeat that they suffered. They keep making the same speeches, and now they are ready to collaborate with the Communists like they did with the Nazis.
In reality, one sees very clearly that except for the instinct for self-preservation which played a role at all levels (e.g., the ordinary prisoner in the face of the Haeftlingsfuehrung, the Haeftlingsfuehrung in the face of the S.S., and even the S.S. staff in the face of its superiors), there is no valid explanation for what went on in the concentration camp world. The instinct for self-preservation is very obvious, but one does not want to admit it. So one turns to psychoanalysis: Moliere’s doctors talked to their patients in Latin, which they knew no more about than they did about their profession, and the public meekly approved.
The happenings in the concentration camps were psychologically very singular, as much for the S.S. as for the inmates. In general, the reactions of the prisoners seemed more comprehensible than those of their oppressors. Actually the first were of a more human kind, while the others were markedly inhuman. (Page 305)
In my view, it would be more correct to say that the reactions of both groups were all of the human kind, in the psychological sense of the word, and that with regard to the Haeftlingsfuehrung, especially, and to the S.S., they were all markedly inhuman in the moral sense.
Further on, Eugen Kogon points out:
Those who were the least affected in the camps were the asocial and the professional criminals. The reason is to be found in the parallel between their psychic and social makeup and that of the S.S. (Page 320)
Perhaps, this may be a correct analysis. But, it must also be agreed that the concentration camps were not the place to cultivate a political consciousness in the common criminals. On the other hand, the camps did provide the appropriate atmosphere for turning the political prisoners into rogues. This phenomenon is hardly unique to the concentration camps. It can be observed constantly in all of the reformatories and in all of the prisons in every nation of the world, where men are perverted on the pretext that they are being rehabilitated.
Dr. Sigmund Freud’s theory of repression explains all of this very well, and it would be childish to dwell on the point. In all of the penal institutions, the mentality of the whole group, as a result of systematic restraint, shapes itself at the lowest level, usually typified by the guard, the link between all of the prisoners. This fact should not be surprising. The social environment in which we live, in which the idea of the concentration camp is rejected with so much righteous indignation, but in which, at the same time, it is carried out to various degrees, has given the political, turned scoundrel, the right — momentarily, I hope — to play the hero!
It is, without doubt, because he anticipated some reproach for this kind of thinking that Eugen Kogon wrote in his Foreword:
It was a world in itself, a State in itself, a lawless condition into which was thrown a human being, who from that moment on, turning to his advantage the virtues and vices — more vices than virtues! — ceased struggling except to save his miserable existence. Did he struggle against the S.S.? Certainly not! He had to struggle as much, if not more, against his companions in captivity… 
Tens of thousands of survivors made to suffer more, perhaps, by the reign of terror of arrogant companions in captivity than by the infamies of the S.S., will thank me for having also shed light on this other aspect of the camps, for not having feared to unveil the role played in the various camps by certain political types, who, today, make a big noise over their uncompromising anti-Fascism. I know that some of my comrades have despaired at seeing the injustice and brutality dressed up with an aureole of heroism by good people who suspected nothing. Such profiteers of the camps will not emerge enhanced in my study: it provides grounds to dim these usurped glories. What camp were you in? What Kommando? What job did you do? What color did you wear? What party did you belong to? etc… (Page 17)
One can only say that the witness has not kept his promise: one looks in vain, throughout the whole “report” for the condemnation of anyone who was distinctly a political. On the other hand, from the beginning to the end, he pleads for the Communist group, either indirectly or expressly:
That elastic wall erected against the S.S….. It was the German Communists who furnished the best means to realize that task… The anti-Fascist elements, that is, first and foremost the Communists… (Page 286)
There are almost countless other examples where he defends the Communists or the Haeftlingsfuehrung. Actually by defending the Communists, he was also defending the bureaucracy of the concentration camps, because only those who called themselves Communists could claim to get into it and, once in it, stay there. To a certain extent Kogon is making a plea for himself, and I very much fear that, after even the least informed reader has finished reading the book, he will feel an irresistible urge to ask Kogon the very question that he suggests: what positions did you hold?
The conclusion of all this? Here is what Kogon gives us: “Accounts about the concentration camps usually evoke, at the most, astonishment or a shaking of the head; they hardly ever touch the comprehension, and in no case, do they wring hearts.” (Page 347) Clearly, this is true, but whose fault is it? In the intoxication of the liberation, and in giving vent to a resentment pent-up during the long years of the occupation, the French public opinion believed everything. However, as social relations became progressively more normal, it became more and more difficult to influence it. Today, accounts of the concentration camps seem to everyone more like justifications than testimonies. The public now wonders how it got itself caught in the trap, and for two cents it would put everyone on the defendants' bench.
In 1945, when Kogon’s book was published in Germany, there was still not enough data at hand to allow one to say with accuracy how many persons of all nationalities had been imprisoned by the Germans in the concentration camps. Eugen Kogon acknowledges this and warns that the figures he was able to get are only approximate:
Without the slightest doubt, thousands of persons went through the camps during the twelve years of the National-Socialist regime. If we take as a basis for an estimate the number of dead at Auschwitz, which alone seems to come to between three and a half million, as well as the number of dead in the other camps of that kind, it is easy to see that the total number of interned came to at least eight or ten million. (Page 34)
Then, going into detail (Page 147), he produces precise statistics for this period; the total for all the camps and for the sum of the deportees, racial or not, is the following:
Total number of prisoners: 8,000,000
Total number of dead: 7,500,000
This figure of 7,500,000 means that about 94 percent of the total number of prisoners died in the camps. But, if the rest of his statistics are studied carefully, we see: (1) that the number of non-racial deportees comes to 606,000, up to 1939 (Germans only), and to 3,538,000 from 1939 to 1945, for a total of 4,144,000; and (2) that Kogon does not give the total number of racial deportees, but only that of those deportees who died, or the sum of 5,620,000. These two sums add up to 9,764,000 deportees. The margin of approximation is therefore quite broad: about 2,000,000. But, Kogon warned us of that fact. (Page 34)
On the other hand, if we take into consideration the non-racial deportees, the figures show that out of a total of 4,144,000 deportees, about 1,827,000 are estimated to have died, leaving 2,317,000 survivors, about 56 percent of the overall total. Conversely, the number of dead amounted to about 44 percent. Naturally, in the press, it was the manifestly false figure of 94 percent that served to illustrate the horror, or some very similar percentage that had been pulled out of thin air; in France, it was usually 82 percent, and I have never learned just how the statisticians arrived at that figure.
What puzzled me most of all at the time was the total number of deportees: 9,764,000-or even only 8,000,000. For the Germans to have deported that number of persons during a twenty-seven month period (March 1942 to August 1944) (19), it would have called for transportation facilities which, from the facts, the Germans in the midst of war did not have at their disposal. The magnitude of such an operation can be seen upon reflection: three to four hundred thousand persons per month, or ten to thirteen thousand per day, needed to be transported without fail. To do this would have required a minimum of six to nine trains a day, assuming that each train could transport about fifteen hundred persons (plus the accompanying guards and their equipment), as was the case for those trains that left from France. If Kogon is correct, that was quite a lot of rolling stock to divert from the German war effort. Although I am not a railway expert, I made some calculations that were based upon the duration of these trips by train. The deportees from the West, like those from the East, all said that their trips had lasted from four to six days, which would mean, taking five days as the average, that for the entire period of the deportation, there were between sixty to ninety trains, constantly, day and night, going back and forth at this job. When spare equipment is added into the picture, the amount of necessary rolling stock would include between eighty to a hundred locomotives and between three to four thousand railway cars. And, I did not estimate the huge number of personnel, both railway workers and guards, that would have been required.
After the appearance of Kogon’s book, other means of estimating the number of deportees appeared. For example, at Nuremberg, the Attorney General Charles Dubost, representing France, stated on January 29, 1946:
The census taking which we have carried out in France allows it to be affirmed that there were more than 250,000 deportees from France: only 35,000 have returned. Document F. 497, filed under the number R.F. 339. indicates that, out of the 600,000 arrests made by the Germans in France, 350,000 were made with internment in France or in Germany in mind. Total number of deportees: 250,000. Number of deportees returned: 35,000. (IMT, VI. p. 338)
The percentage of survivors, was, therefore, 14 percent and the percentage of the dead was 86 percent. But, to a question put to him by the Minister for Veterans and War Victims of the French Government, Dubost answered, through the official journal, Debats parlementaires, on February 24, 1962, in this way:
According to statistical information released on the first of December 1961 in the multi-copy card file of the deportees and internees of the 1939-1945 war, kept by the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, the number of cards given out to deportees and internees, or to their beneficiaries, is as follows:
Deportees (Resistants) 16,702 9,783
Deportees (Politicals) 13,415 9,235
Internees (Resistants) 9,911 5,759
Internees (Politicals) 10,117 2,130
TOTALS 50,145 26,907
From Dubost’s figures, it can be seen that the total number of deportees was 49,135 and that the total number of dead was 19,018. This means that about 38 percent of the deportees died while 62 percent (or 30,117) survived. Obviously, it is difficult to determine from these figures the exact number of survivors and of dead that existed during the month of May 1945. Returning from the camps, even after having spent only short periods of time there, the survivors were a very frail lot whose annual mortality rate was understandably way above normal. Consequently, I would not be surprised to be told that out of the 19,108 who were dead on February 24, 1962, 35 to 45 percent died after their return to France. In that case, one would have to concede that on May 8, 1945, the proportions of living to dead were the following: 75 to 80 percent were survivors and 20 to 25 percent were dead. While tragic enough, this latter estimate is quite a different thing from 86 percent dead and 14 percent living as deduced from the figures that were brought forth at Nuremberg by the Attorney General Dubost; in fact, this estimate is so different that it almost represents inverse proportions!
What supports my opinion that these proportions, which I have noted for France, are valid for all of the camps, is my detailed study of the statistics of the Buchenwald camp, where I was deported myself. As a result of my study, I came to the following conclusions: to Buchenwald and its satellite camps there seem to have beep deported, from 1939 to 1945, a total of 238,980 persons, of whom statistics show that 56,545 died or 23 percent. But, I cannot vouch for this rate of 23 percent, for the following reasons: the incoming prisoners were registered just once, while the outgoing, being dead, were often subject to double registration, the first time in the satellite camp in which they died (Dora, for example) and a second time at Buchenwald, where, until the time that each of the satellite camps was equipped with a crematorium, they were cremated. In the statistics that were produced, those who died in the camps like Halberstadt, Ellrich, Beuchow, and Dora, among others, were, in fact, added to the number of persons who were cremated at Buchenwald. The mortality rate might, then, have been a little less, but not much; even 20 percent for example, would still be enormous, The Assistant Bishop of Munich, Mgr. Neuhaussler, did the same sort of research that I did, but concerning the Dachau camp where he was interned. For Dachau he came to the same conclusions as I did for Buchenwald: there were between 199,519 and 206,206 internees (the uncertainty arises from the fact that there were two numbering systems on the camp register) of whom 67,665 died, or 28 percent. The same observation applies for Dachau as for Buchenwald with regard to the adding of the dead in the satellite camps to those of the central camp. Still, it must be noted here that the card index of the S.S. camp staff showed only about 26,000 dead, according to Mgr. Neuhaussler, in his book So war es in Dachau. But, Pastor Niemoller claimed, in a speech given on July 3, 1946, and published with the title Der Weg ins Freie by Franz M. Helbach at Stuttgart, that “238,756 were cremated at Dachau,” or a greater number than there were internees. On a visit to Dachau in 1945, I was able to take a photograph of a sign that had been put up between two trees at the entrance of the camp; the inscription on the sign read as follows: “This area is being retained as a shrine to the 238,000 individuals who were cremated here.” Without a doubt, this sign which had been prepared for the benefit of the tourists was based on the conclusions of Pastor Niemoller who was interned in that camp, and who then became its authority.
I must add that since he published So war es in Dachau in 1969, Mgr. Neuhaussler has made new discoveries which have caused him to modify his first conclusions and that he had the honesty to make them public, on March 16, 1962, in a speech that he gave at Dachau to the representatives of some 15 nations that had gathered there to commemorate the liberation of the camp. Le Figaro of March 17, 1962, reported the statistical data that was contained in that talk as follows:
This afternoon in bitter cold and in spite of a snow storm, pilgrims gathered together at Dachau camp where thirty thousand men were exterminated, out of the two hundred thousand from thirty-eight countries who were interned there from 1933 to 1945.
Moreover, all of the other newspapers of the day printed the same figures. So it was 30,000 deportees who were cremated at Dachau (or 13 percent, which is still enough), and not 67,665, which was the number that Mgr. Neuhaussler had calculated initially. In other words, the card index that had been maintained by the S.S. staff reflected the truth, but very good care has been taken not to take it into consideration. It is possible that some day similar figures will be determined for Buchenwald.
Such is the extent of the exaggerations which no one doubted in 1950, which Mr. Eugen Kogon did not hesitate to authenticate and to disseminate, and which the world press still echoes on a daily basis in spite of all of the new information that has come to light. Moreover, in France, no commemoration of war events takes place that does not loudly reaffirm that 250,000 French nationals were deported to Germany, that only 35,000 came back, and that six million Jews were exterminated in the gas chambers.
Concerning the Jews, Kogon gives the number of dead as 5,620,000, as we have seen. In the camps where the Jews were interned, the mortality rate — while far from the percentages that have been published by tile press for propaganda purposes — was certainly as high as that suffered by other prisoners. Although we do not yet have reliable documents concerning these camps, we shall see in the following chapters what one may think, both of the means that were used allegedly to exterminate the Jews and the number of alleged Jewish victims.
XV. Nota bene…
There are a number of the most unlikely tales, as well as certain examples of journalistic sensationalism, that I must point out before I finish with Mr. Kogon.
Among the unlikely tales must be included most of Kogon’s statements concerning the listening to foreign broadcasts. I sincerely doubt that it was possible for anyone to set up and to use a secret radio receiver inside any of the concentration camps. If the Voice of America, the B.B.C. or Radio Free France were occasionally heard in the camp, it was with the consent of the S.S.; moreover, only a very small number of privileged prisoners could have been among the listeners, and, then, mainly by chance. Thus it happened to me personally at Dora during the short period that I served as the Schwung (orderly) for the Oberscharfuhrer who commanded the Hundesstafel (the company of guard dogs).
My work consisted in cleaning a whole barrack which housed the more or less ranking members of the S.S. staff; among other things, I waxed their boots, made their beds, cleaned their mess kits, etc….all things that I did most humbly and conscientiously. In everyone of the rooms in this barrack was a radio. For all of the gold in the world, I would not have taken the risk of listening to one, even when I was absolutely certain of being alone. However, at about eight o'clock in the morning, when all of his subordinates had left for work, it happened two or three times that the Oberscharfuhrer called me into his room, where he had tuned to the B.B.C. that was broadcasting in French, and asked me to translate for him, which I did under my breath.
In the evening, back in my Block, I passed on the news in a whisper to my friends Delarbre (from Belfort) and Gourguet (from the Creusot) urging them either to keep it to themselves or to repeat it only to comrades of whom they were very sure, and even then to do so in such a way so that it could not be traced to its source.
We did not constitute a “committee,” and not one of us claimed that we were in touch with the Allies. Moreover, nothing happened to us. But during that same time, there was a stir that centered around the listening to foreign broadcasts in which, I believe, Debeaumarche was mixed up. I never knew exactly what it was all about. One of the members of that group approached me one day saying that there was a secret listening post in the camp, that a political movement was getting orders from the English, etc…. He backed up what he was saying by telling me the news that I had listened to that very morning, or the evening, before, with the Oberscharfuhrer. I expressed my skepticism in such terms that thereafter he considered me someone to be avoided. It was just as well for me. A few days later, there were massive arrests in the camp, and among those arrested were the fellow who I just mentioned and Debeaumarche himself. The to-do ended with a few hangings. In all likelihood, it began with a prisoner in my situation who had talked too much, and what he had said was imprudently bruited about, until it reached the Sicherheitsdienst (S.S. secret police) through an informer in the Haeftlingsfuehrung.
When Eugen Kogon writes:
I spent many a night, with a very few who were in on it, before a 5-tube receiver which I had taken from the S.S. Doctor Ding-Schuller to have it repaired in the camp. I listened to the Voice of America in Europe as well as to the Soldatsender, and I copied down the important news. (Page 283)
I am willing to believe that he may have listened to foreign broadcasts; but I am inclined to think that he listened to the broadcasts in question in the company of Doctor Ding-Schuller. As for all of the rest, it is only an embellishment which is intended both to make believable the revolutionary activity on the part of those in the Haeftlingsfuehrung, and to better excuse their monstrous exactions.
I believe that Kogon listened to these broadcasts in the company of his S.S. patron Doctor Ding-Schuller, or at least with his connivance and consent, because Dr. Francois Bayle reports in his Croix Gammee contre Caducee this curious testimony that was given by Kogon at Nuremberg: Doctor Ding-Schuller asked him to take care of his wife and children in case Germany was defeated! From this testimony, I gather that their relations were surely more cordial than Kogon has admitted. And. I shall add that if this request implies a quid pro quo which Kogon would not admit in any case! — the privileged position of this singular prisoner would be explained by a mutual collaborative understanding whose inspiration and aims would appear to be much less noble than it has so far been convenient to concede.
Further speculation along these lines is not likely to be productive, nevertheless, the record may reflect that the collaboration between Kogon and the S.S. was. by his own admission, profitable, friendly, and often intimate. There was also the collaboration between Kogon and the Communists, as has been mentioned in earlier sections of this chapter.
As for Kogon’s journalistic sensationalism, I quote the following example which should provide the reader with an idea of what I mean:
Let us recall the taking of oath of those aspiring to the S.S., at midnight, in the cathedral at Braunschweig. There, before the bones of Henry the First, the only German emperor on whom he set any value, Himmler was fond of expatiating on the mystique of the “Communaute de conjures.” Then, after that, in the gay sunshine he would go to some concentration camp in order to watch the political prisoners being whipped  one after the other. (Page 24, emphasis added.)
Mme Koch who previously had been stenographer in a cigarette factory sometimes took baths in a tub filled with madeira. (Page 266, emphasis added.)
Statements of this sort abound concerning all of the important personages of the Nazi regime, and they produce pleasant sadistic reactions. They also exhibit some of that same state of mind that made Le Rire publish, in September 1914, a photograph of the child with his hands cut off or Le Matin describe, on the 15th of April 1916, the Emperor William II as being a paranoiac with cancer, with at the most just a few more months to live, when, in fact, he had neither of those afflictions. Furthermore, the state of mind seems to have caused Henri Desgranges in L'Auto, in September 1939, to “thumb his nose” at a Göring and say that the Reichsmarschall was without soft soap with which to wash himself. The banality of the method is equalled only by the credulity of the public and by the imperturbability of those who make use of it and keep repeating it about all enemies in all wars.
- La Jeune Parque, November 1947. It was published in Germany in 1945 under the title: Der S.S. Staat.
- During this time, for example, a Doctor Seguin never succeeded in getting himself recognized in his professional capacity by the Haeftlingsfuehrung. Having never been acknowledged as a medical doctor by the Communists, they sent him to work in the quarry where he died.
- It seems that the National Socialists took him over from the Weimar Republic. This fact is not without its humor because it shows that the jailing of Communist troublemakers was a policy which was common to both regimes.
- He does not seem to have encountered a Martin-Chauffier.
- The “disposal” of “troublesome” prisoners by the Haeftlingsfuehrung was often done for reasons much more base than those that are mentioned by Kogon. For example, those prisoners who got in the way of the ruling clique or those who might possibly get in the way by being placed in influential positions by the S.S. were often marked for death. The argument of collaboration is, moreover, worthless; this “illegal management” — i.e., the Haeftlingsfuehrung — collaborated openly with the S.S., as is shown elsewhere in this book.
- Eugen Kogon sometimes uses the word “illegal” and sometimes the word “clandestine” to describe the operation of the Haeftlingsfuehrung. Actually, there was nothing the least illegal or clandestine about it inasmuch as it had been set up by the S.S.
- There were many Communists who were not “accredited", and they were, above all, decent people. They were lost in the mass and shared the common lot.
- It is well to note that the S.S. generally did not steal from the prisoners. First of all, they enjoyed better rations to begin with and, thus, had no pressing need to obtain more. Secondly, when they did desire to supplement their rations, they let other prisoners do the stealing for them and were thus better served.
- These quotation marks appear in the original text.
- I want to emphasize the word “possible.”
- Osterloh was a “green,” and that is why the incident is described as having been a “good example.”
- Emphasis added.
- The Bunker was the prison within the camp. If Kogon is to be believed, “it was not the S.S. but the first elder of the camp, Richter, who invented it,” (p. 174) when the S.S. had not even thought of it.
- This is an improper generalization. It was a question only of those who had made themselves their leaders, thanks to the authority that they derived from the S.S.
- All of the Buchenwald prisoners can testify that his main concern was for the actual delivery of health and medical services to the prisoners.
- Since this way of thinking doubtless admits a denunciation … involuntary! As we see, ways to get out of things are not lacking!
- It seems that there are other ways of denouncing which are less infamous or which are not infamous at all, evidently!
- This statement is an improper generalization. As a common prisoner, one had to struggle against those who exercised power on behalf of the S.S., while distrusting his fellow prisoners among the common lot.
- This twenty-seven month period is generally recognized as being the time period during which the vast majority of the foreign internees who were incarcerated in the German concentration camp system were deported by the Germans from whatever locale in which they had been arrested.
- If the rack at Buchenwald (if, indeed, there was one) was hidden from the Chief of Police of Weimar during his inspection of the camp, it is hardly likely that it would be shown to his superior Reichführer-S.S. Himmler.