15 January, 2012

15 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
15 January, 1945        1130

Good morning, sweetheart –

Just time enough to get a little start but I hope to be back right after lunch and finish up. It’s been a pretty busy morning, dear, but I like that on Monday because it sort of gets the week started. The weather is clear again today and that’s always good news around here. I get so depressed on a bad day because I know that one way or another – it’s delaying the war and that, darling, is always a source of great irritation to me.

One of the boys – just came in and is waiting for me to go to chow, dear, so I’ll be off and be with you in a short time –


Hello, again – sweetheart –

My – doesn’t time fly! At lunch – a meeting was announced for 1300 and then following that, I had to see a couple of patients from a neighboring outfit. The meeting, by the way, dear – was about the usual – namely plans for the immediate future, new locations etc. Annoying as it is to continually roll up your bed roll, let out the air from your mattress, and gather up your junk – we still don’t mind too much so long as we’re going in the right direction. You can imagine, darling, how aggravating it must have been to us to go in the opposite direction.

Last night we played Bridge again – the Chaplain and I challenging the Col and our personnel adjutant. Usually we change partners after each rubber and keep individual scores. We beat them 3 rubbers straight – all 700 rubbers. The score was something like 4400 to 390 – which is quite a drubbing, I think.

I got no mail yesterday and none today (it got in early today) and the mail service is really becoming smelly. Of course I have “my love” to keep me warm, darling – but I sure do love to hear from you and I feel quite disappointed on the days I don’t.

I did want to mention something you brought up some time ago, dear – namely the casualty lists – and the number of them that must have a depressing effect on you – and I can understand it. But you must learn to become impersonal about it – otherwise your imagination will


It’s just a tough day today, darling, and you’ll have to excuse the lack of continuity. I’ve been in and out of my room. Maybe I can finish this in one more sitting. I started to say that you ought to pay no attention to the casualty lists. It won’t do any good and more often – it will do harm. Just remember that I’m always looking out for myself and that’s the most important thing of all in a combat zone.

I never did answer your question in reference to Cyn and her desire for excessive amounts of salt. I’m not sure I know. Sometimes it represents a disturbance in the salt balance in the blood and that of course may be due to half a dozen different causes. Often it is lost in the urine, or it isn’t absorbed correctly from the diet; the adrenals may be the seat of the trouble – or it may mean nothing at all. An M.D. would want to know about her appetite, loss or gain in weight, easy fatigability, change in the complexion of the skin and with that information he would still want to do half a dozen blood tests. You’ll have to tell me more, dear – and at no extra cost – either.

I was sorry to hear about Irv Fine's mole – but it's probably better by now. Herb Fouger should know what he’s talking about though, dear – because he’s been doing pathology and been working with a top-notcher – Don Nickerson – at the Salem Hosp.

And those attempted puns – concerning our former location at a dept. store – underwear, ladies – street floor! When I got thru reading what you had to say, my breath was coming in short pants; as puns, I’d call it a series of bloomers, and naturally – even with a two-way stretch of the imagination, I couldn’t take much stockin’ any of it. It was nylon to 10 minutes before I caught on to the first one and then I girdled myself and kept on reading. You sure step-in to a lot when you start something like that and hereafter – try a night-cap first! Now that ought to end that! (Nice try – Cyn!)

Have to quit now, darling. This letter seems jumbled to me – so I won’t re-read it. This part is clear, though, dear – and that is that I love only you and hard! Love to the folks and

All my everlasting love –

P.S. Enclosed card from Italy – Just a bit gaudy but different.


about Struthof-Natzweiler

From TIME magazine, in the issue published January 15, 1945 (Vol. XLV No. 3), comes this articles called: "Science: Nazi Research".
It has been rumored that Nazi scientists have used civilian prisoners as guinea pigs for macabre biological experiments. Last week the rumors were documented. A French investigating commission reported on a huge prison camp in Alsace where hundreds of men & women had been tortured and killed under carefully controlled conditions in order to supply data for Nazi science.

The camp, known as Struthof-Natzweiler, was found in a thick wood in the Vosges foothills, 30 miles from Strasbourg. Near its rows of dark green huts was a "laboratory" equipped with gas and torture chambers, a crematorium, a vivisection room. There some 20,000 people (mostly Jews) were abused and killed.

Some were inoculated with plague and leprosy germs. Thirty women were deliberately blinded, then given a 15-day "treatment" during which they screamed incessantly. (At the end a few recovered their sight, but all were put to death.) In another experiment, a white-uniformed doctor led 84 young women in batches to the gas chamber. German professors watched their dying reactions through a window.

The investigators got this sickening story from captured German assistants in the laboratory and French peasants who lived nearby. Director of the Nazi researchers was a Professor August Hirt of Frankfurt, an SS officer.

Reported Sonia Tamara, New York Herald Tribune correspondent: "The French have a picture of Hirt—a quiet, thoughtful-looking man."
Now here's the rest of the story, much of which comes from the site called Struthof.
After the Armistice of 22 June 1940, Alsace and Moselle were annexed de facto by the 3rd Reich, German civil servants were appointed to run the administrations, the German currency and common law were imposed, the factories and mines "Germanized" and the use of French was banned. Starting in 1942, Alsacian and Mosellan men were conscripted into the Wehrmacht, the German army.

The small village of Struthof, on Mont-Louise, was a tourist resort much appreciated since the early 20th century, in particular by holidaymakers from Strasbourg who came for its hotel and ski slopes. But it was picked for its seam of pink granite discovered by the SS geologist Colonel Blumberg in September 1940. Himmler, head of the Gestapo and the police, and Oswald Pohl, head of the principal administrative and economic section of the SS (WVHA), wanted to build camps close to quarries in order to exploit the deportees, as in Mauthausen and Flossenbürg, as part of the Deutsche Erd und Steinwerke (DEST), the SS mining firm set up by Himmler in 1938.

The first deportees arrived in Struthof in two convoys from Sachsenhausen camp on 21 and 23 May 1941. They built the first huts of Struthof-Natzweiler. Declared a forbidden area, the camp was completed in October 1943.

The former Struthof-Natzweiler camp's
barracks before their destruction in 1954

Nearly 52,000 people of thirty different nationalities were deported to the Struthof-Natzweiler camp or its annexes: the largest number were Poles, followed by Russians and French (1/4 from Alsace-Moselle), then Belgians, Norwegians, Luxemburgers, as well as Germans, Greeks, Yugoslavs, Czechs, Austrians, Lithuanians, Dutch, Italians and Slovenians...

Natzweiler’s deportees came from prisons, internment camps and other concentration camps all over Europe. The intake process was the same for all of them. They got off the train at the Rothau railway station, walked or rode in trucks to the camp and received a registration number. They were stripped of their identities and personal belongings, deloused, disinfected and given mismatched clothing or, sometimes, striped uniforms. All discovered a world where they were no more than numbers and sub-humans.

The deportees had been arrested for all sorts of reasons. Most of the camp’s earliest deportees were common criminals, “asocials” and political prisoners from Germany. The first Poles and deportees from lands annexed by the Third Reich (the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia and Alsace-Lorraine) began arriving in 1942. The following year many people from Luxembourg and Resistance members of different nationalities — Belgians, Dutch, Norwegians and French — began streaming in from various concentration camps and prisons throughout Europe. The French included many military men, in particular members of the Secret Army and the Organisation of Armed Resistance. In June 1943 the first convoy of French "NN" deportees arrived in Natzweiler. They had been arrested as Resistance fighters under the Nazi’s 1941 “Nacht und Nebel” (“Night and Fog”) decrees, which aimed at eliminating all the Resistance movements and opponents of German occupation. They were imprisoned, deported, totally cut off from the outside world and doomed to a slow death by work, exhaustion, hunger and disease. Some were eventually sentenced at the court in Breslau; others were kept in the camps without trials. Their loved ones had no news about them. In 1944 the Germans started deporting Jews, mainly from Poland and Hungary, to the annex camps.

The central camp was the only concentration camp in France. Its annexes, scattered over the 2 sides of the Rhine, made up a network of nearly 70 camps, of varying size. Of the nearly 52,000 detainees of Struthof-Natzweiler, about 35,000 did not go through the central camp. From 1941 to 1945, Struthof-Natzweiler was one of the most murderous camps of the Nazi system. Nearly 22,000 deportees died there, although at Struthof-Natzweiler the deportees were not gassed systematically, nor after mass selections.

Beatings, diseases, exhaustion and death were the daily lot of the prisoners. They suffered from the wounds left by blows inflicted on them by the Kapos and the SS, as well as from the bites of the dogs trained to attack them. They could also be punished and sentenced to be beaten on the beating rack or locked up in the bunker on the lower part of the camp. Skeleton-like, exhausted, wounded, ill, deprived of treatment whether or not they were admitted in to the infirmary, many of them died. Detainees who attempted to escape or were simply suspected of doing so incurred the death penalty by hanging or the firing squad. In the central camp of Struthof-Natzweiler, the mortality rate was 40%; in the camp annexes, it could rise to 80%.

Rock Quarry Car and Execution Gallows

The Gestapo of Strasbourg also used the camp as a place of execution. In 1943, thirteen young men from Ballersdorf (upper Rhine region) were shot in the quarry for refusing to be conscripted into the Wehrmacht army and trying to leave the annexed region. In September 1944, just before the evacuation of the camp, members of the Alliance network and maquisards from the Vosges mountains were taken to the camp to be executed. They all died in the oven of the crematorium block.

In addition to forced labor and executions at Struthof-Natzweiler, a series of "medical" experiments were conducted as part of the work of the the Reich University of Strasbourg, and Ahnenerbe, the SS administration attached to the headquarters of Himmler in Berlin. The principal perpetrators of these experiments were August Hirt, a professor of anatomy known internationally, Otto Bickenbach, a professor of medicine and specialist in combat gases, and Eugen Haagen, a virologist who had discovered a vaccination against typhus that put him on the short-list for the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1936.

Hirt carried out experiments on mustard gas and planned to create a collection of skeletons using the bodies of 86 Jews deported from Auschwitz. Bickenbach carried out experiments on phosgene gas and Haagen continued his work on the effects of typhus.
August Hirt
Eugen Haagen

Otto Bickenbach
The gas chamber was designed in 1943 by the camp commandant, Josef Kramer, at the request of Nazi professors of medicine from the Reich University of Strasbourg to carry out medical experiments. The gas chamber was set up in a small room of 9 sq m in the dance hall of the Struthof Inn, already requisitioned for the SS troops. From 14 to 21 August 1943, 86 Jewish deportees from the Auschwitz camp were gassed here; their bodies were supposed to provide a collection of skeletons for Professor August Hirt. The gas chamber was also used to study new gases. Deportees, mostly Gypsies, served as guinea-pigs.

Gas Chamber

On 23 November 1944, the Allies discovered the site evacuated by the Nazis since September.

Strathof-Narzweiler Monument to the Dead

Close-up of the monument tells its own story

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