How could Nazis kill children and babies?

Death camp for babies - US lawyers accuse VW of genocide

from report: Andrea Röpke and Volker Steinhoff

Introduction

PATRICIA SCHLESINGER:

When inconceivable crimes happen - and in these weeks we see and hear inconceivable things almost daily from Kosovo - when such crimes happen, then we, especially we in Germany, have learned how difficult it is to clarify and come to terms with later. Actions are played down or covered up, files destroyed, people silenced. Many details of the crimes of the Third Reich are only now, more than fifty years later, researched and known. Genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity are not accused of an old SS henchman, but of a German model company. A class action lawsuit was filed against Volkswagen yesterday in the United States. It is a tremendous charge. The children of Eastern European forced laborers at VW were slowly murdered as planned. Murder through neglect. VW speaks in a statement of a "tragic chapter from one of the darkest times in modern history". Why did so few people know about it until today? Why was it not known that there were many companies running extermination camps for infants, in which the babies of the slave laborers were tortured to die - in fact, one has to say: cruelly died?

Andrea Röpke and Volker Steinhoff researched for months to find answers to these questions.

COMMENT:

A playground in Braunschweig. 150 babies were buried under the sandpit in which the children play here and then forgotten and kept secret. You were killed over fifty years ago. Today only anonymous wooden crosses remind of the crime.

Here they were born, here they also had to die, in the so-called "maternity hospital for Eastern workers". All forced laborers from the area who were pregnant had to go to the home for delivery. The babies were born among dirt and vermin. Czeslawa Pfeiffer also had her child here.

0 tone

CZESLAWA PFEIFFER: (translation)

(former forced laborer)

"There were bugs in the boxes the children were in. Bugs in the corners and worms, you could see them. It was dirty all over the room. And the sight of these children was just terrible."

COMMENT:

The mothers were only allowed to stay with their baby for a few days, then they had to go back to work. Despite the primitive conditions, Czeslawa Pfeiffer's daughter was born healthy. But the dirt made the child sick.

0 tone

CZESLAWA PFEIFFER: (translation)

"She developed blisters that were filled with pus. The nurses just took needles and pricked the boils. My daughter screamed that she suffered so much. It was so terrible that I passed out. Later, my friend and I secretly closed Sneaked into her room. We took her out of bed and shook her to see if she was still alive. But she didn't scream anymore, she didn't even react. "

COMMENT:

Shortly afterwards, Rosalia Pfeiffer was dead. Born on October 16, 1943, died on November 21. She only lived five weeks. Not an isolated case: According to the home list, hardly any baby survived the Braunschweig camp. The Nazis covered up the crime. Your cause of death: Debilitas vital - weakness in life. The truth: hunger, systematic neglect, neglect.

An unknown crime in Braunschweig until recently. Many knew about it. Also the company for which female forced laborers had to work: Büssing, now part of MAN. The files have been destroyed, they explain, and an interview with PANORAMA is not desired. Only the manager of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who was also responsible for the death camp at the time, no longer wants to remain silent.

0 tone

RÜDIGER SORS:

(IHK Braunschweig)

"The IHK was responsible. Here in the Chamber of Commerce and Industry this topic was never mentioned."

INTERVIEWER:

"How do you explain that? Can that also be explained by ignorance?"

RÜDIGER SORS:

"It can certainly not be explained by ignorance, but I simply attribute it to the fact that no one wanted to talk about these things."

COMMENT:

The Braunschweig death camp for babies - not an isolated case. According to conservative estimates, there were over 300 such camps in Germany, and more than 100,000 children of forced laborers perished here. The mass killing was organized.

It was SS leader Himmler who arranged the camps for the babies of the forced laborers in 1942. His only condition: "for the collecting points" one should introduce "a grandiose designation", for example "maternity hospital" or "children's home". Why not "death camp" right away, why were the babies left alive first?

0 tone

BERNHILD VÖGEL:

(Historian)

"You didn't necessarily want to make it clear to women straight away that their children were going to die. You needed their labor and thus also a willingness to work from these women."

COMMENT:

Organized baby murder. Also in Kelsterbach near Frankfurt. Nothing is reminiscent of the transit camp for slave labor that once stood here. Those interested can find the last traces in the nearby cemetery: the graves of babies. One thing is particularly well cared for: the grave of Wieslawa Janas, who died at the age of eight weeks. Little Wieslawa's sister is still alive today. Krystyna Walas was four years old when she witnessed the murder in Kelsterbach.

Original sound

KRYSTYNA WALAS: (Translation)

(Sister of the killed Wieslawa)

"The doctor stabbed my sister's spine with a syringe. Then he sucked something out, a liquid. My sister wasn't dead straight away, she was in such agony."

COMMENT:

Her sister lived for a whole day, then she was dead. Krystyna Walas and her family were moved to another camp the next day, otherwise she would probably not have survived Kelsterbach.

0 tone

KRYSTYNA WALAS: (Translation)

"A lot of children were murdered there. I saw the corpses. When my sister was dead, I sneaked into the washroom. There were loads of dead children there. When there was no more space, they took them away. Murdered, brought them away." , murdered, taken away. "

COMMENT:

In memory of her dead sister, Krystyna Walas put a cross in her garden. The family did not receive any compensation for the dead baby. The senior doctor in charge was never convicted. He had stated that nobody in the camp had complained. For the German public prosecutors, that was the end of the case.

A lot could have been determined in the process, for example in Warsaw. Here is the archive of the Main Commission for the Investigation of Crimes against the Polish People. There was one carbon copy of many of the Nazi documents that were supposedly destroyed in Germany. Entire files on individual death camps have come together, including the names of many babies who were killed. But public prosecutors or renowned historians from Germany were almost never interested in it.

0 tone

KRYSTYNA SMANDZEWSKA: (Translation)

(Public Prosecutor "Main Commission")

"The whole subject has never been discussed in public in Germany. There has not been a comprehensive scientific investigation. Only a few perpetrators have been investigated at all. There was virtually no conviction of those who murdered so many children of Polish slave laborers."

COMMENT:

The unknown crime. Now, after more than fifty years, it is becoming a big topic, also in Rüben near Wolfsburg. Because here, at the Volkswagen Group, over 300 babies died. The management was responsible. Today VW speaks of a tragic chapter from one of the darkest times. But the company does not want to say anything in front of television cameras. Not even about the spectacular lawsuit filed against VW yesterday in the USA - by this man: Michael Hausfeld, one of the most renowned lawyers. He had already forced the Swiss banks to make a billion-dollar settlement.

0 tone

MICHAEL HAUSFELD: (Translation)

(Lawyer VW victim)

"I think that nobody can imagine, neither in Germany nor in the USA, that a company, not a government or a special military unit, would commit genocide. That is exactly what happened here."

COMMENT:

The allegations in the explosive complaint: genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The scene of the crime: the "children's home" operated by VW, right near Wolfsburg. Today only one of several barracks remains. The 1944 annual report of the home manager to the VW management lists soberly: "318 children were admitted, of which 254 children died".

0 tone

MICHAEL HAUSFELD: (Translation)

"The death rate in the last few months of the VW children's home was almost 100 percent. Almost every child born was killed. And the VW management knew about it. They even deducted the funeral costs from the starvation wages of the mothers."

COMMENT:

Often the mothers only found out about their baby's death through this VW funeral bill.

One of the very few who survived: Waldemar Krassmann, 55 years old today. Shortly before the end of the war, his mother saved him from the death camp. Maria Krassmann was abducted from the Ukraine to VW as a forced laborer. In the hail of bombs from Allied planes, she walked eight kilometers along this canal, from the VW factory to the VW children's home. In fear of death, she crept into the barrack and got her son out.

0 tone

MARIA KRASSMANN:

(former VW forced laborer)

"When you see that, so only the bones and covered with house, he couldn't sit, he couldn't - as one lay down, so he stayed. At one year and five months - not a word, just cry, nothing more . "

0 tone

WALDEMAR KRASSMANN:

"Today I can be happy that I got away with it, but the other way around I still cannot understand that I was the only one or that two or three children from that time are still alive."

COMMENT:

The VW cemetery near Wolfsburg. If you take a closer look at the tombstones, you will find many dead children. Average survival time in the VW children's home: six weeks. Yesterday's class action lawsuit against Volkswagen is the first of its kind, but probably not the last.

0 tone

MICHAEL HAUSFELD: (Translation)

(Anwald VW victim)

"An estimated 300 to 400 children were killed in this one VW children's home. In total there were over 300 such children's homes. It can be assumed that over 100,000 children, all six months old or less, were liquidated in this way in the last years of the war."

COMMENT:

Why is the mass murder of babies largely unknown in Germany? We drive near Schwäbisch Hall, to Bühlerzell. Here, too, there was a so-called "maternity hospital" in the Gantenwald.

0 tone

INTERVIEWER:

"Gantenwald - have you never heard of that?"

MAN:

"There is no information from me."

INTERVIEWER:

"Why is there no information?"

MAN:

"I don't want to know anything about these things."

INTERVIEWER:

"Why don't you want to know anything about that?"

MRS:

"Because everything is a lie."

INTERVIEWER:

"What did you see in the Gantenwald?"

MRS:

"That doesn't give a shit about you - get out of here."

COMMENT:

Up in the Gantenwald, the forced laborers had to hand over their children. The big house still stands, now a farm. Otilie Reck ran the home. She has since passed away, but her niece is still alive. As a child she was often visiting the home.

0 tone

ADELHEID K .:

(Niece of the home manager)

"Well, and then I just walked into the room and saw that they were lying around and badly dressed, sometimes nothing on, on the floor with a blanket or something, relatively a bit of something on the ground, none Mattress, nothing. "

COMMENT:

And many children died in this home too. The reasons here too: hardly any food, no maintenance. The babies were then buried a few hundred meters away, away from the German villagers.

Many in the village knew about the death camp at the time, including the Catholic priest Uhl. His nickname: Nazi Padre. An unpleasant thing for Pastor Schmid, who later got Uhl's job. He knows that his predecessor was often in the Gantenwald.

0 tone

MANFRED SCHMID:

(Pastor)

"He had to go there, had baptisms, had funerals."

INTERVIEWER:

"Shouldn't he have also offered resistance as a pastor or as a Christian?"

MANFRED SCHMID:

"Is the question, is it?"

0 tone

GERD HAIDA:

(former editor "Haller Tagblatt")

"The following were then involved in the execution of this inhumanity: the Red Cross, the churches, the offices, youth welfare office, employment office, health department, that is, all offices as we have them today, as they are administered today and I, that's how they were here too managed. "

COMMENT:

So the authorities were all involved, but also the residents?

0 tone

GERD HAIDA:

"Yes, of course, back then everyone was involved, and now nobody wants to know about it."

COMMENT:

Gerd Haida and his colleagues have been involved in the education of baby kills since the 1980s. After his first article at the time, the incumbent mayor reacted with his version, his knowledge.

0 tone

GUIDO KOHNLE:

(official mayor Bühlerzell, 1983)

"There are also individual cases where the employer himself impregnated his subordinate maid, or whatever he called it."

COMMENT:

For the politician the last shit.

0 tone

GUIDO KOHNLE:

"Gentlemen, let this muck rest. These children have become unwanted coincidences of sexual joys and amusements and were born in the Gantenwald at that time due to the lack of abortion possibilities. They died there too.

COMMENT:

Today's mayor doesn't want to deny anything anymore. He does not deny that many children died here, but he asserts:

0 tone

FRANZ RECHTENBACHER:

(Mayor Bühlerzell)

"Every single child was buried in a white children's coffin, and it was buried at the right depth. And according to the statements made to me, these children were each buried by the local pastor in the presence of two acolytes."

COMMENT:

He never spoke to the eyewitness.

0 tone

ADELHEID K .:

(Niece of the home manager)

"It's either wrapped in paper, and then it's straight into the weighing machine. Nothing coffin, nothing has it, no, because I know that for sure. Coffin was never used there. A hole was made, but also not very deep, and then you put it in there and covered it up. Nobody has ever spoken to me, or neither, nor anything else, so I see it as relatively uninteresting for people on the whole, because hardly anyone is interested in that . "

COMMENT:

Over 100,000 dead babies - almost no one was convicted. Instead, many of those responsible made careers after the war.

About Dr. Hans Muthesius from the Reich Ministry of the Interior. The death camps for children were also organized according to his designs. He became an alderman of the German Association of Cities.

Or his direct colleague, Dr. Wilhelm Loschelder, from the same ministry. He became State Secretary in the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of the Interior, awarded the Federal Cross of Merit.

Or Dr. Karl Gossel. He regulated the financing of the death camps. After the war he was first senior district director and then a member of the Bundestag for the CDU.

Moderation

PATRICIA SCHLESINGER:

Post-war careers without breaks. Almost none of these perpetrators were punished for these crimes. And there were many in this post-war republic who did not allow any of them to be punished.