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Germany ‘tracks down 50 suspected Auschwitz guards’

KRAKOW TOURS: Fifty alleged former Auschwitz guards may face prison terms in Germany, sixty-eight years after the end of World War II, local media have reported.

The former Auschwitz guards, who’ve never faced prosecution for their posts, were tracked down by the Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes in Ludwigsburg.

The suspects may be charged with accessory to murder. The investigators possess the names and location details of the suspects, men in their 90s, who originate from all over Germany, the chief prosecutor Kurt Schrimm confirmed on Friday.

He did not specify where the suspects are, but said some possibly moved to South America with the help of the Catholic Church. The federal law enforcement body is set to launch a preliminary investigation into the issue in the coming weeks.

The sentencing in 2011 of John Demjanjuk, a former guard at Sobibor concentration camp, set a precedent that allows authorities to bring proceedings against former concentration camp guards, even if the investigators cannot prove their direct involvement in the crime due to lack of witnesses.

“From now on, any activity in a concentration camp is enough to stand trial for complicity in murder,” the chief prosecutor said.

Demjanjuk, a native of Ukraine, lived in the United States after the war, but was stripped of citizenship and deported to Germany, where he was convicted of accessory to murder of about 28,000 people who died at Sobibor concentration camp based in occupied Poland. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison in May 2011.

The Munich Court then held that, although Demjanjuk cannot be imputed to any specific criminal acts, he “was part of the machine of destruction,” according to the verdict. He died in March last year in before the ruling came into effect.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau camp operated by the Third Reich in occupied Poland was the largest Nazi concentration camp during WWII. It was established by Third Reich’s Minister of the Interior Heinrich Himmler as the place of the “final solution” in the policy to annihilate the Jewish people in Europe.

There the Nazis killed about 1.3 million people of diverse nationalities, around 90 percent of whom were Jewish, according to data given by the Memorial and Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau. Those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labor, infectious diseases, individual executions, and medical experiments.

The center for solving crimes of National Socialism in Ludwigsburg was founded in 1958. Since then it has tracked down a total of 7,485 Nazi criminals, according to Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung.

April 6, 2013 Posted by | Auschwitz | , , , | Leave a comment

Krakow Ghetto opened 72 years ago this week

IN SCHINDLERS STEPS – This day in history – 1941 – The beginning of the Jewish ghetto in Krakow

One of the five main ghettos created by Nazi Germany during their occupation of Poland in WWII. Before the war, the city was an influential cultural centre for the 60,000 – 80,000 Jews that resided there.

February 26, 2013 Posted by | This Day In History, Tour Information | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Germany to donate €60 million To Auschwitz – Birkenau

KRAKOW TOURS – The German Foreign Ministry has announced that it will donate 60 million euro to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, the fund-raising body for the preservation of the Nazi concentration camp’s site in southern Poland.

Berlin is set to donate the money in five equal yearly payments starting in 2011, the ministry stated, Wednesday.

Following an agreement signed between the federal authorities and representatives of Germany’s federal states, the Federal Government will pay 30 million euro, with the other half directly coming from the country’s states.

“Through the donations to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, Germany recognises its historical responsibility for the support and transfer of memory of the Holocaust to future generations,” Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle published in an official statement.

Westerwelle also wrote that Auschwitz-Birkenau is a “synonym of the crimes perpetrated by National Socialism. Today’s memorial reminds us of this crime. It is our duty to support the Foundation which secures the museum as an indispensable place of remembrance, education and learning in the future.”

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation was created in 2009 thanks to the initiative of Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, the PM’s plenipotentiary for international dialogue, and more pertinently perhaps, a former inmate of Auschwitz.

The Foundation’s activity is aimed at the preservation of around 155 buildings, 300 ruins and thousands of other exhibits, including documents and archive materials. According to the Foundation, around 120 million euro is needed for the upkeep of the Museum site for years to come.

December 16, 2010 Posted by | News, Tour Information | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oswiecim (Auschwitz) to separate from its’ twin.

KRAKOW TOURS – The mayor of Ballan-Mire, central France, has announced that he does not want to renew a twinning agreement with the southern Polish town of Oswiecim, citing concerns that the local authorities there are distancing themselves from the former Nazi concentration camp situated there.

According to reports from Agence France Presse (AFP), Laurent Baumel, the socialist mayor of Ballan-Mire, near Tours, has criticised the twinning agreement, signed in 2002 by his predecessor, by stating that the contract does not refer in any way to the Nazis’ activity at the site of Auschwitz, where an estimated 3 million people died during World War II.

“There is no talk of the Holocaust, Shoah or the camp,” Baumel told AFP, underlining that the twinning agreement is “a typical ‘twinning’ between a French and Polish town geared towards cultural and touristic exchange.”

According to Mayor Baumel, since 2008 Oswiecim authorities want to forget about the Nazi concentration camp as part of the twinning agreement. “The Polish local authorities are standing by the separation of the town from the death camp, in effect leading to the trivialisation of the town itself,” Baumel stated.

“In fact, their approach is based as if they were to say ‘stop identifying our quaint town with a death camp; Oswiecim is not Auschwitz’,” Baumel complains.

“By no means do I want to support a strategy based on separating the name of Auschwitz from everything it means in common history,” the mayor has said, with reports in La Nouvelle Republique (FR) that Baumel has already taken the decision not to renew the agreement.

Meanwhile, head of Oswiecim’s town council, Piotr Kucka is surprised by the French mayor’s decision.

“We have always repeatedly stated that it is not allowed to link the town with the camp. After all, that is also the policy of the Polish state as a whole,” Kucka told the Polish Press Agency (PAP).

“As soon as there is talk of an ‘Oswiecim camp’ instead of ‘Auschwitz’, a line is crossed as to the falsification of ‘Polish concentration camps’,” Kucka maintains.

Oswiecim is a town over 800 years old, reminds Piotr Kucka, yet Auschwitz was the result of a five-year period of Nazi occupation, when most Polish and Jewish residents were resettled to make way for a model German town.

Originally, Auschwitz camp was used for the interment of Poles. Town councillor Piotr Kucka told PAP that current residents of Oswiecim make sure that visiting Germans refer to the town in its proper Polish form, and the German name.

Co-operation between Ballan-Mire and Oswiecim has been ongoing for around ten years, starting with youth exchanges, and ultimately leading to a Polish-French Friendship Association based in the southern Polish town.

The mayor of Ballan-Mire last visited Oswiecim in the Spring of this year. His opposite number is Oswiecim, Janusz Marszalek, has not been informed of the decision.

LINKED STORY.  Oswiecim…Under the shadow of Auschwitz

November 11, 2010 Posted by | Krakow Travel Advice, News, Tour Information | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Auschwitz thief complains of maltreatment

KRAKOW TOURS – Anders Hoegstroem, the Swede who is accused of stealing the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign from the Auschwitz museum in December 2009, has complained of bad conditions in the jail where he is currently being held.

Hoegstroem earlier passed on his grievances to a friend in Sweden, Bjoern Fries, a politician for the Social Democratic Party in Sweden. Fries announced the thief’s malcontentment on SVT, Sweden’s public broadcaster on Thursday evening.

“Hoegstroem has lost 15 kg since he was interred in Poland, and he also has to pay for his own water and personal hygiene products,” Fries said.

The politician is urging the Swedish authorities to look into the case, to check whether “such treatment is in line with the European justice system.”

Former neo-Nazi, and allegedly the mastermind behind the theft of the sign, Anders Hoegstroem is currently being held in a prison in the southern city of Krakow, along with two Polish suspects: Marcin A. and Andrzej S.

Investigations into the theft have been extended until December, with media reports stating that the case will probably be finished by the end of this year.

Hoegstroem has maintained his innocence in the case, which accuses him of the theft and also persuading the Poles to help him. If found guilty, he could face a 10 year sentence.

November 5, 2010 Posted by | News, Tour Information | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Holocaust denier David Irving watched closely at Auschwitz.

Controversial British historian David Irving wants to lead a tour of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp site but the museum says he will not be allowed to do so.

Imprisoned by Austria in 2006 for Holocaust denial, the historian started a tour around Poland this week with a group of people from the US and Australia and wants to present his, revisionist, interpretation of World War II history.

Irving, the author of several books which question elements of established Holocaust history, has claimed that much of what visitors to Auschwitz see today is a “reconstruction” and a Polish “money making machine”.

Though his original itinerary did not include the most infamous site of the Holocaust, the 72 year-old Irving has confirmed that he intends to  lead his tour party around the Auschwitz Nazi death camp.

Irving will probably arrive at Auschwitz on 30 September but has not informed the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum about the visit. The museum says it will not be allowing him to lead a tour as he is not a bona fide qualified guide, however.

“David Irving cannot lead a tour group at Auschwitz because he is not licensed,” said director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Bartosz Bartyzel.

“He can visit the museum, like anyone else, but we will watch him closely and if he starts telling lies about the Holocaust, we will take action,” Bartyzel assured.

The director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum admitted, however, that it will be difficult to establish if a person who heads a group serves as a guide, or is just a group member.

“If I’m refused the right to enter a concentration camp or if I’m forced out, it will be methods such as the Nazi used,” David Irving told Italian daily Corriere della Sera after officials at the former Treblinka death camp announced that they will not let the British historian enter.

Irving’s tour has angered Poland’s small Jewish community. “Mr Irving is not a historian but a charlatan and a vicious liar,” said Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich.

Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) says that it is following Irving’s steps in Poland to make sure he does not commit another “Holocaust related crime”. “We know where he is, what he’s doing and what he’s saying,” assured Marcin Golebiewicz from IPN.

Denying facts about the Holocaust is punishable by up to three years in prison in Poland.

September 23, 2010 Posted by | News, Tour Information | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Holocaust denier to lead tours to Auschwitz and Treblinka

NOT KRAKOW TOURS – The Nigdy Więcej (Never Again) anti-racist organisation have called for ‘Holocaust denier’ British historian David Irving to be banned from entering Poland later this month.

Starting September 27, Irving is leading a tour party, with tickets costing around 1,500 euros each, taking in sites including the Treblinka death camp, Warsaw Ghetto and Hitler’s Bunker in the Masurian lake district.

Never Again, in a joint statement with the UK based Searchlight magazine, have called for Irving and his tour party – which he claims is sold out – not to be let into Poland.

“We urge Polish and British authorities to react strongly and not allow this shameful visit which offends the memory of victims of the war and the Holocaust,” says the Never Again statement.

“The group will mainly consist of Holocaust deniers and neo-Nazis from the UK and other Western Europe countries and the United States,” the statement adds.

Protest

No protests against the visit have yet come to the notice of the police. “We have not yet received any information about demonstrations and assembly connected with Irving’s visit,” said Warsaw police spokesman Mariusz Sokolowski .

“We have also not receive any information from Mr Irving that he felt threatened,” Sokolowski told the PAP news agency, noting that police have no responsibility for the security of private visits.

Irving has dismissed protests against his visit. He told the Daily Mail that his tour party was for “real history buffs”, and that it was the Polish authorities who had turned the Auschwitz Nazi death camp site into a “Disney-style” tourist trap and a “money making machine”. Irving went on to accuse Polish authorities of neglecting other less “marketable,” more authentic death camps, which “don’t have a Holiday Inn down the road,” in favor of Auschwitz.

He also accused Poland of erecting watch towers in Auschwitz that were not there during WW II, to make the place feel more authentic. “I have been a historian for 40 years. I know a fake when I see one. When you look at old photos of Auschwitz, those towers aren’t in the photographs,” he said.

Irving was arrested and imprisoned in 2006 when he visited Austria, where Holocaust denial is a crime.

Andrzej Arseniuk, spokesman for Poland’s National Remembrance Institute  – which investigates and prosecutes Nazi and communist-era crimes – said that they would take appropriate action if Irving publicly denies Nazi crimes. If incidents come to the attention of the law then “the prosecutor has the authority to deal with it,” Arseniuk said.

September 16, 2010 Posted by | Krakow Travel Advice, News, Tour Information | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Fire at former Nazi Death Camp

KRAKOW TOURS – Majdanek, a former Nazi concentration camp located near Lublin in eastern Poland, caught fire Monday night, destroying many of the wooden structures and as many as 10,000 pairs of shoes belong to victims who died at the camp, officials said Tuesday.

The fire started in one of the L-shaped barracks and was noticed by a security guard when he saw smoke coming from the structure as he was making his rounds. The fire department was called promptly but the wooden camp did not have much of a chance. Sixteen fire brigades came to the rescue, numbering 48 firefighters, but it took seven hours to contain the fire, which spread quickly and furiously over the camp.

The source of the fire, which brought an estimated one million złoty in damages, is yet unknown and, although speculations of faulty wiring and premeditated arson have not yet been completely eliminated, they seem unlikely to have been the cause.

August 12, 2010 Posted by | News | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Oswiecim, under the shadow of Auschwitz

KRAKOW TOURS – The small Polish town of Oswiecim (Auschwitz in German) has long felt that it suffered from association with the horror of the nearby Nazi death camp, but some residents hope the town can begin to be seen in a more positive light.

“You want a map of the town, not just the museum?”

The tourist information officer looked sceptical at first, then delighted. She rummaged in a drawer – clearly one she did not open that often – and pulled out a brochure.

There were, she ruefully admitted, very few visitors to this place interested in anything beyond the Auschwitz museum.

After I had made my own visit, I headed away from the crowds into the elegant old town centre. A modest cafe or two were open, old men sat in the tree-lined square feeding the birds, shoppers ambled around in a scene you would find in any small Polish town.

No signs in any foreign language, nowhere selling souvenirs.

While more than a million people arrive up the road at the museum every year, in the town centre there is no hint of it being a tourist destination.

Resentment

And this bizarre divide has caused considerable tension.

Although the museum provides some jobs for locals, others complain about costs incurred in providing, say, parking space for visitors who bring the town little in return.

There have been rows when planning permission for the museum’s expansion has been rejected by local authorities.

And resentment goes deeper than that.

Some people feel tainted by the terrible history looming over this place.

It is hard growing up somewhere the rest of the world sees as the symbol of evil.

Some visitors to Auschwitz make a point of shunning the town, not wishing to linger. They cannot understand, they say, how anyone could still live here.

Jewish past

The reaction from many local people has been to turn their backs on history.

All this was encouraged by Polish Communist rule, keen to suppress Jewish history in particular.

Oswiecim’s former synagogue was used in Communist times as a carpet warehouse, until a British academic, Jonathan Webber, discovered it in the 1980s.

As Judaism was then so taboo, he recalls, he had to pretend he was looking for an Armenian church.

He paid the warehouse workers a few dollars to carry away the stacks of carpets and reveal Hebrew inscriptions on the walls.

That former synagogue is now a Jewish centre.

On the staff is Artur Szyndler, who grew up in Oswiecim under Communism.

He told me that all the time he was at school, a mile or two from the Auschwitz site, he never once heard the word Holocaust.

But after the end of Communist rule, he studied Jewish history at university, as a growing number of young Poles now do.

Pointing to old maps on the walls of the centre, he explained how Oswiecim had had a Jewish majority before the war.

With its location at a well-connected meeting point of countries and peoples, it was known as a place of unusually good relations between faiths, and for tolerance of refugees.

But that location became a curse during Nazi rule, and Oswiecim was chosen as the final destination and place of murder for over a million Jews and many others too, who were deported from all over Europe.

Reconciliation

Oswiecim’s own Jewish residents were among the victims.

There are no Jews living here today, but the centre in the former synagogue has regular visits from Holocaust survivors who were born in the town.

It wants to draw visitors from the Auschwitz concentration camp site into Oswiecim to explore the history of the rich society the Nazis destroyed.

And the Jewish centre is just one of several places in the town exploring the nature of genocide, and the possibility of reconciliation.

At the Centre for Dialogue and Prayer, I came across a man who plays a remarkable symbolic role as the only German living in Oswiecim today.

Manfred Deselaers is a Catholic priest with a ready smile but a deeply serious mission.

After German reunification in 1990 and much talk of Germany moving on from its past, he decided to settle permanently here.

He immersed himself first in its darkest history, studying the claims made by the commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Hoess, that he was a Christian believer.

Today Father Deselaers runs courses bringing former Auschwitz prisoners – Catholic and Jewish – together with young Poles and Germans.

Sometimes even the descendants of Germans who worked at the death camp are there.

Given this kind of encounter, he tells me, Oswiecim-Auschwitz can be a place with a “remarkable positive power, which is strange but it’s here”.

“It’s important that people are not simply overwhelmed, but see something good,” he says. “That Hitler does not have the last word about this place”.

It will never be straightforward for Oswiecim to emerge from the shadow of Auschwitz.

The reconciliation work is a start, drawing on memories of the town’s brighter history before the Nazis arrived.

It is seen as offering a kind of map – like the map I found buried in the tourist information office – showing a way towards a more positive future for a town still trapped in the most terrible of pasts.

Chris Bowlby for BBC News

August 1, 2010 Posted by | Krakow Travel Advice, News, Tour Information | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Former inmate recalls daring escape from Auschwitz

Arbeit Macht Frei, image by Peter Harpley

KRAKOW TOURS – Close Window Print Story Former inmate recalls daring escape from Auschwitz By MONIKA SCISLOWSKA

Associated Press Writer, The Associated Press Tuesday, July 20, 2010 9:23 Poland

With every step toward the gate, Jerzy Bielecki was certain he would be shot. The day was July 21, 1944. Bielecki was walking in broad daylight down a pathway at Auschwitz, wearing a stolen SS uniform with his Jewish sweetheart Cyla Cybulska by his … Read More

via The perpetual view’s Blog

July 22, 2010 Posted by | Krakow Travel Advice, News, Tour Information | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Naked Mickey Mouse on a Swastika!!!! WHY?

KRAKOW TOURS – A new Polish art gallery has defended its use of a poster featuring Mickey Mouse’s head grafted on to a naked female body backed by a swastika.

The poster, based on a piece by Italian artist Max Papeschi calledNazisexymous, is being used to promote an exhibition titled ‘Aborman Nudes’ due to open in Poznan in September, PAP reports.

Local councillor Norbert Napieraj said: “For Poles, the swastika symbolises the suffering and death of over six million people. The promotion of the Nazi regime through a public display of swastika in the very city centre is a disgusting and repulsive act.”

Publishers of images ruled to promote fascism in Poland can reportedly face a prison sentence of up to two years.

Mateusz Pakulski from the city’s Prosecutor’s Office said: “We will investigate whether the law has been violated in this case.”

However, gallery manager Maria Czarnecka has denied that the poster promotes Nazism, saying: “Our goal is not just to exhibit, but also to provoke, to show how modern pop culture comments on reality.”

June 25, 2010 Posted by | News | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Auschwitz thieves NO SHOW for prison sentence.

KRAKOW TOURS – The three men jailed for stealing the Auschwitz sign are missing after being let out of jail on compassionate leave.

Two of the men, brothers Lukasz and Rodoslaw M., had been entrusted with weekend passes in order to visit their ill mother. The third man, Pawel S., had also been allowed out, to organise wedding plans with his fiancée. But police have confirmed that all three have failed to return to the jail in Wroclaw and arrest warrants have now been issued by Krakow’s District Court.

The men had been sentenced for their roles in the theft of the famous ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ sign that sits above the entrance gate to the Nazi death camp in December last year.

Police are now worried that their no show could affect the outcome of the case against Anders Hogstrom, the man who is believed to have plotted and staged the entire theft. Hogstrom, who founded Sweden’s anti-immigrant National Socialist Front in 1994, was extradited to Poland this month to face trial – with most of the evidence based on statements from the men who are now missing.

The former neo-Nazi leader has pleaded innocent, stating that he was merely asked to collect the sign from the Polish gang in order to pass it onto a buyer. If convicted of the crime, he faces up to 10 years in prison.

April 27, 2010 Posted by | News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Extradition over Auschwitz theft

KRAKOW TOURS – A court in Stockholm has ruled that a Swedish man can be extradited to Poland to face trial over the theft of a sign from the Auschwitz death camp.

Investigators accuse Anders Hogstrom, 34, of instigating the theft of the infamous Arbeit Macht Frei sign from the camp gates last December.

The sign was recovered shortly afterwards, cut into three pieces.

Mr Hogstrom, 34, a former neo-Nazi leader, is likely to appeal against his extradition, his lawyer said.

Five Polish men have already been arrested over the theft.

The sign, which weighs 40kg (90lb), was half-unscrewed, half-torn from above the death camp’s gate.

The 5m (16ft) wrought iron sign – the words on which translate as “Work sets you free” – symbolises for many the atrocities of Nazi Germany.

The theft caused outrage in Israel, Poland and around the world. More than a million people – 90% of them Jews – were murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz in occupied Poland during World War II.

March 11, 2010 Posted by | News, Tour Information | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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