Lingering Brutality

Timeless Truth Off 25

On Tuesday, May 29, 1945, the Nazis committed their final (documented) act of murder. Although three weeks had passed since VE Day, the Americans had not yet put an end to the atrocities in Kaufbeueren, a small German town where thousands of handicapped children were euthanized in a “hospital.” The director of the facility had been arrested, but the liberators did not venture into the facility as signs warning of typhus were prominently posted.
So when the head nurse, Sister Worle, approached the bed of four-year-old Richard Jenne, who was classified as a “feebleminded idiot” and who was almost dead from starvation, there was no one to stop her. She killed him with a lethal injection and then dutifully recorded the time of death as 13:10.
Yes, I know it is obscene to call this woman a nurse; she had already committed 200 such murders. When she was later imprisoned, she asked her captors with apparent surprise, “Will anything happen to me?”
In Holland, another egregious episode unfolded five days after the surrender papers were signed. In the western part of the country, nearly 150,000 German troops remained armed, controlling virtually every aspect of Dutch daily life. Although the war was officially over in Europe, the Canadian commanders approaching the area did not order their much smaller force to enter. With Eisenhower’s approval, the Allies decided to keep the German structure intact to maintain law and order. This had two advantages. First, the Germans would be responsible for their own food, allowing the Allies to focus on feeding the starving Dutch; and second, the Allies could issue orders and rely on the German military hierarchy to carry them out.
The arrangement resulted in a seamless transition from captor to captive. The Germans remained fully armed on Dutch streets for a few days, until they were ordered to turn in their weapons. The soldiers were completely loyal to their commander, General Johannes Blaskowitz. Thousands of prisoners were then sent to the abandoned Ford factory compound, where they were held until further plans were ironed out.
Under these rather bizarre conditions, two German deserters made their reappearance. One of them, Rainer Beck, was a German Jewish sailor who apparently had masked his identity and was drafted into the Kriegsmarine in 1940. When the first Allied forces crossed the Dutch border, he slipped away from his harbor post and joined his sister, who was in hiding in Amsterdam. When the Canadians finally entered the city, he turned himself over to the Dutch resistance, which handed him over to the Seaforth Highlanders, the Canadian regiment that liberated the city.
A Canadian historian named Chris Madsen, writing in a 1993 article in the journal Canadian Military History, described what happened next: “Major Oliver Mace, acting commanding officer of the Canadian regiment, ordered Major J. Dennis Pierce, the company commander in charge of the former factory [where the German prisoners were being held], to place the two deserters inside the compound because ‘they were certainly Germans and we had no other place to put them.’”
The prisoners’ camp was under the authority of a German commandant who was only too eager to mete out “justice.” In no time, he set up a court martial in front of the whole camp, where the predetermined conclusion immediately became clear. In less than 15 minutes, the tribunal sentenced Beck and his fellow sailor to death by firing squad.
In an unbelievable turn of events, the German commandant asked the Canadians for weapons to carry out the sentence. The astonished Canadian officer in charge phoned his superior, who refused to intervene in the German chain of command. In no time, General Blaskowitz himself got involved and ordered the prisoners to be shot. When the general’s orders were relayed to the Canadians, the Allied officer dutifully arranged truck transport along with eight captured rifles and 16 rounds of ammunition. With typical German efficiency, the two men were taken out to their deaths before a firing squad. The entire episode took place in less than half a day.
Under questioning later by Canadian officers, the unrepentant German commandant explained why the executions were carried out even though the war was over. “They have been deserters, and if they were allowed to go home and have children, the minds of the children would be dirty too.”
These chilling words are a sad reminder that although the German war machine was destroyed, the fanatical Nazis never abandoned their murderous ideology.

About the author / 

Rabbi Sholom Friedmann

Rabbi Sholom Friedmann is a Talmid of Rabbi Leib Bakst זצ"ל, of Yeshivas Ateres Mordechai, Detroit, Michigan. After learning in the yeshivah and kollel, Rabbi Friedmann moved to the British colony of Gibraltar and studied in the Gateshead Kollel for three more years, at which time he received rabbinical ordination. From there, Rabbi Friedmann moved to London, England. In London, Rabbi Friedmann taught in the Menorah Grammar School, and was appointed the communal Rov of Kehilas Kol Yaakov, Edgware, London. Rabbi Friedmann was awarded Qualified Teaching Status by the British Board of Education in 2002, and a diploma in educational psychology by the Tavistock clinic (London) in 2006. In 2005, Rabbi Friedmann was accepted as a Fellow in Holocaust Education by the prestigious Imperial War Museum, London. Rabbi Friedmann relocated to New York in 2008 to become the Director of Zechor Yemos Olam, the Holocaust education division of Torah Umesorah. While occupying that position, Rabbi Friedmann created teaching materials, videos, and teacher training programs, including the ZYO Holocaust education fellowship program. In April 2012, Rabbi Friedmann was appointed as the director of the Amud Aish Memorial Museum. The museum founded by Elly Kleinman will carry on the legacy of holocaust history. For more info about when it is expected to open read this article.

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