The Horror file of the second world war.
By Rick Aalhuizen
Besides the killed in action, there were the wounded, the maimed, the war widows, the war orphans, the prisoners of war, the civilian bombing victims, the civilian victims of concentration camps, the refugees and worst of all "the Holocaust"
I have in my stamp collection, a collection of stamps about the second world war, which is divided in different sections. This particular section of my 2nd world war collection, that I would like to share with you, is called the horror file of WW2 and it refers to the human cost of this war, that spanned the globe. When we refer to a war, we usually talk about the battles: where they were fought and who won. But when it comes to the human cost, we suddenly have historical amnesia. World war 2 was a war, where the civilian casualties far outnumbered the military ones. Nobody knows for sure how many people lost their lives, but the most commonly accepted estimate is 55 million people. The human cost does not only refer to the people killed in action, but also to the wounded, to the maimed, the war widows and orphans, the prisoners of war, the civilian bombing victims, the civilian concentration camp victims, the refugees and worst of all "the Holocaust". The horror file of ww2, is the story of man’s inhumanity against man, as illustrated on postage stamps throughout the world. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them
When we open the file, we first pay tribute to the International Red Cross, without whose effort, the loss of human life would have been so much greater. The International Red Cross idea, was first conceived by Jean Henri Dunant, a Swiss Philantropist, (here featured on an Indian stamp ) who, after seeing the suffering of the wounded at the battle of Solferino in 1859, urged the formation of a voluntary aid society, for the relief of war victims. In 1863, delegates of 12 nations signed the first Geneva Convention, that laid down rules for the treatment of the wounded and protection of medical personnel. The famous symbol of the movement (red cross on white background) was adopted at this meeting. Most countries now have national Red Cross Societies like Denmark and Kenya.
It was through the efforts of the International Red Cross that the Swedish Red Cross organised aeroplane food drops to the people of the northern part of Holland , who had been cut off from the rest of the country, after the liberation of the south and the battle of Arnhem. On the left we see a soldier killed at the battle of Bataan and a fallen hero in the Soviet Union. On the right we see how Finland remembers and Germany shows her war graves. Czechoslovakia shows some of its martyrs on the left and fallen heroes on the right. Russian heroes and their heroic deeds are portrayed on the left and Polish stamps show Polish heroes at their battle fields. Germany and Bulgaria pay tribute to their wounded. We see the maimed depicted on a Philippines stamp and a Bulgarian stamp. War widows and war orphans are shown on Philipine and Serbian stamps. Curaçao, in the Dutch West Indies, issued in 1943 a set of stamps, surcharged for the prisoners of war and Belgium had done the same in 1942 , whilst Germany still did that in 1953. The bombing victims were remembered by Serbia in 1943, with the overprint: "For the victims of the bombing of Nisch 20-10-43 and a surcharge, while France showed the bombed cities of Caen and Dunkerque. The terrible war at sea.
The hunters on one side and the victims on the other.
The United States commemmorates the sinking of the troop carrier "Dorchester", that went down with 902 passengers and crew.Four Army Chaplains, of different dominations, gave their life jackets away and sacrificed themselves for the troops.
The greatest sea tragedy of all times was the sinking of the "Wilhelm Gustlof". She left Gdansk on January 30, 1945, with more than 9000 people on board. They were all fleeing from the advancing Red Army. Just before midnight she was torpedoed and although 964 survivors were rescued, it is estimated that more than 7000 people perished in the icy cold water of the Baltic Sea.
A prominent German concentration camp victim was Pastor Niemöller, who was fortunate to survive, 8 years in Dachau and Sachsenhausen. He was an organiser of the Confessing Church, which opposed the Nazi regime and he is portrayed on the left.
On the right we see Sophie and Hans Scholl, who were brother and sister and were members of a student group, called "The White Rose", that circulated anti Nazi pamphlets on the campus of the University of Munich.. They were both tortured and executed for that offence.
East Germany, after the war, issued a number of stamps featuring the monuments at the different concentration camps. These camps were not specifically built for extermination, as were others.
Nevertheless, Buchenwald claimed 63,500 lives and Sachsenhausen 100,000 lives. These types of camps contained people, that were classified :"Nacht und Nebel" which means "Night and Fog" >no notice of whereabouts and return not wanted <.
Ravensbrück, in the north of Germany, was exclusively for women and by 1945, 92,000 did not return home. We also see the monument at Mauthausen, which was opened in the early years of the Nazi regime and had claimed 138,500 lives by 1945.. It was at this camp, that Eichman and his team organised the deportation of the Hungarian jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
This stamp shows the monument, erected after the war, at the concentration camp of Breendonk in Belgium, which was liberated in January 1945. These stamps show, how these camps were filled with all nationalities and people from all walks of life. A well known hockey player and a well known swimmer. Danielle Casanova was a French youth leader, René Blick a Belgian poet, Julius Fucier a Czech author, Hannie Schaft a Dutch student and Povel Finder a Polish party organiser. On the left, we see the face of Hitler’s Commissioner for Bohemia and Moravia, Reinhardt Heidrich, whose ruthless methods in Norway, France and Holland had earned him the name of "Hangman of Europe". In May 1942, he was shot by two Czech patriots, near the town of Lidice. The revenge was terrible. The town of Lidice was completely destroyed, the river redirected over it, all men executed and all women and small children transported to Ravensbrück concentration camp. The right side shows some of the stamps, that Czechoslovakia issued every five years to commemorate this event.
This stamp shows what happened in Oradour in France in June 1944, after the Allies had landed in Normandy. As a reprisal for the killing of a German officer, all inhabitants of the village were driven into the church, after which the men and boys were called out again and mowed down by machine guns. Thereafter, the church was blown up and set on fire and 642 women and children with it. The village was never rebuilt and even now, acts as a memorial to the victims. The right hand side shows the monument at Chateau Briant, in France, where 50 people were shot in reprisal for the killing of a German officer.
On the left is the monument at Putten, in the Netherlands. After an attack on a German Army vehicle with two German Officers, 631 men from Putten were transported to concentration camps. First to Amersfoort camp in Holland and then to Neuengamme in Germany. Only 120 did return.
Left we see how in Italy the Nazis killed 330 hostages (ten Italians for every German) when 33 Germans were killed by a bomb, that exploded as they marched past. The victims were taken by lorries to the caves outside Rome, where the shootings took place by torch light and engineers sealed the caves afterwards. The stamp shows the monument there erected after the war.
The right illustrates the monument, that was erected in Krajujevac in Yugoslavia, where as a reprisal for a partisan attack in which 23 Germans died, German and local fascist militia men massacred 2,300 Serbs (100 Serbs for every German). It was General Keitel who issued this order to the German Occupation forces :"In reprisal for the life of a German soldier, the general rule should be capital punishment for 50 –100 communists;--- the manner of execution must have a frightening effect.". This General was convicted on 4 counts as a war criminal at Nürnberg and hanged on October 14, 1946.
Also further East did these things occur. Left shows a Hungarian victim of the fascist regime and on the right we see that Romania issued a set of stamps, which illustrated the way their martyrs died in detail..We see Jurga kicked to death, while Andrej received a neckshot. But it was not only the Germans, who committed the atrocities.On the left we see a pair of tied hands reaching from the grave and that stamp refers to the "Katyn Forest Massacre of 1940. In 1939, when the Germans occupied Western Poland and USSR occupied the eastern part, the Soviets set up special camps in the forest of Katyn, near Moscow, to house 2,500 Polish army officers, reservists and intellectuals, who had been called up to resist the Soviet invasion and had been taken prisoner. In April, 1940, these camps were emptied and the prisoners never seen or heard of again. In 1943, during the German occupation of Russia, the Germans were told of mass graves in the forest and exhumed the bodies under the supervision of the Red Cross. The Russians blamed the Germans for it, but it did upset relations between the USSR and the exiled Polish Government in London. It was not until 1992 that it was revealed, that the Soviet Politburo had ordered the executions. On this stamp we see the death march of the U.S and Philippine prisoners of war, after the fall of Bataan. On this forced march of 105 km from Bataan to the Clark Field Airbase, as many as 20,000 men are believed to have perished from disease, hunger and the cruelty of their Japanese captors. Here we see how the Freemasons were persecuted, almost as much as the Jews were. Serbia, which was created as a German puppet state, even went as far as staging an anti-masonic exhibition in 1941 and issuing a set of stamps there for. The first stamp shows a Jewish Freemason (note the apron) shielding himself from the light of New Serbia, while the other stamp shows the destruction of the two pillars by a Serbian fascist. In between the pillars is the Star of David again, while the letters on the pillars were described as standing for Bolshevism and International Jewry, both being part of the symbols of Freemasonry. In November, 1988, East Germany issued a stamp to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Crystalnight 1938, which was the start of the organised pogrom in Nazi Germany. On November 7, 1938, the German Attaché in Paris was assassinated by a Jewish person, named : Herzel Grynszpan; Josef Goebels, who was the Nazi Minister for Propaganda, recognised the publicity value of this and issued instructions that "Spontaneous.Demonstrations" against Jews were to be organised and executed throughout Germany in retaliation for the Ambassador’s death.
The pogrom started on the 10th of November and began with the burning down of 267 synagogues in Germany by SA troops, acting under orders. 815 stores were destroyed, 20,000 Jews arrested and 36 killed. The name "Crystalnight" took its origin from the enormous amount of broken glass, that was created that day.
After "Crystalnight" , the Jews were ordered to pay one billion marks for their crimes and all damage was to be paid for, by either the Jewish landlord or the Jewish tenant. All insurance claims by Jews were confiscated by the State. From then on, it was down hill all the way for the Jewish population. No driver’s license, no business, no securities or jewelry, curfew 9pm in Summer, 8pm in Winter, wearing a yellow star on all garments etc etc. In 1941 the large scale deportation to concentration camps began.
Similar things happened later in the occupied territories. In February 1941, SS troops arrested 400 Jews in Amsterdam, which caused mass demonstrations and many protesters were shot or arrested. A general strike was called for which had, after a hesitant start, considerable success, but resulted in a toughening up of the German attitude towards Holland. 50 years later Holland issued a stamp commemorating this event. It shows a photo of the German raid on the Jewish quarter in Amsterdam and an open hand.
The right hand stamp was issued on the 50th anniversary of the first deportation train from Westerbork Concentration Camp in Holland to the Extermination Camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland. This stamp illustrated how the deportations affected everyone: Father, Mother, Brother, Sister, Uncle, Aunt, Nephew, Niece, Neighbour, Neighbour’s wife, Boyfriend or Girlfriend..
On the left we see three photos of Anne Frank and the house that she was hidden in. Her family refused to go on transport and hid themselves in the attic of a warehouse, but were betrayed after 2.5 years. Her diary was given to Anne’s father, who was the sole survivor of the family after the war. The diary became well known all over the world and was translated in nearly 50 languages. The house is now a museum. Next is a happier story. In late September 1943, Danish fisherman smuggled almost all of Denmark’s 7000 Jews, across the sea to the safety of Sweden. It was through the begging of Danish atomic scientist Niels Bohr, portrayed on the left, that the Swedish Government promised asylum to all Danish Jews, that reached her shore. Only 450 Danish Jews were caught by the Gestapo and sent to Theresienstadt Ghetto in Bohemia. This Theresienstadt Ghetto was a special Ghetto for prominent Jews, who were carefully separated from their valuables on arrival and were even forced to take part in a great hoax for the benefit of visiting members of the International Red Cross on June 23 1944.Special stamps were used to keep the hoax up. The last inmates from Theresienstadt went to Auschwitz four months later.On the right we see how Czechoslovakia issued stamps, portraying a boy behind barbed wire and a child’s drawing, which was found after the war. It was drawn by a 10 year old boy, called Jir Beutler and called "Man and child". You can see the Star of David on the child and the club or truncheon in the man’s hand. The stamps were issued to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Munich Agreement in 1938, whereby Czechoslovakia was carved up and handed to Hitler on a platter. This stamp was issued by Israel to commemorate the sad demise of 33,771 men, women and children, who were machine gunned to death in less than 48 hours at the ravine of Babi Yar, by special command units of the SS. Babi Yar is just outside the city of Kiev, in the Ukraine. It is an awfully sad stamp, somber in colour and horrible to contemplate. It portrays the people in groups of 100, being led to their death by SS guards and their dogs. These stamps refer to the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943. The first stage of Hitler’s solution to the Jewish question, was to herd them into Ghettos and the Warsaw Ghetto was established soon after the German occupation of Poland .
In 1942 the liquidation of the Jews began and between July and October 240,000 Jews were gassed at Treblinka, which was an Extermination Camp, a few miles north of Warsaw. In the Ghetto a Jewish Fighting Organisation was formed and the first armed clash occurred in 1943.
Although the Jews had very little in weapons, only home made bombs and small firearms, they kept fighting from the sewers, tunnels and dugouts. The Insurrection lasted until May 18 1943, during which time the Ghetto was totally destroyed.
Left shows the Memorial at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where over 2,000,000 people were gassed, during the Nazi Occupation of Poland.On the right features Edith Stein, who was a Catholic nun and was gassed in Auschwitz, because she had Jewish parents.There under is a Polish stamp which shows the striped garments, that the inmates wore, with a "P" in a red triangle for political prisoner. On the left we see Father Kolbe, a Catholic priest, who swapped places with a condemned man in Auschwitz and died therefor in August 1941. He was beatified by Pope Paul Vl in 1971.
Edith Stein was beatified by Pope John Paul the second, in 1988.
These stamps refer to Majdanek Extermination Camp, which claimed 1.4 million victims. The left shows the Memorial erected there after the war, while on the right is a Polish stamp, that was issued in 1946 and shows "Death in Nazi uniform" emptying Cyclon B gas crystals, over the camp, from the container. Dr Janusz Korczak 1879-1942
Dr Korczak was a Polish author, educator and social worker. In 1911 he became the head of a new Jewish Orphanage in Warsaw and retained that position for the rest of his life. When the Nazi deportation order came in 1942, Korczak suppressed the truth and told the children that they were going on a picnic in the country.
When he and some 200 orphans at last reached the cattle trucks, that would take them to Treblinka, Korczak refused a last minute offer of his freedom in return of abandoning his charges and went with them to his death.
Stamp on the left shows us the Memorial at Treblinka Extermination Camp, where 750,000 people were gassed..
On the right is an Israeli stamp which shows 6 candles: One for every million people, that died in the Holocaust and the yellow Star of David, as it had to be worn by Jewish people under Nazi domination. The stamp was issued for Heroes’ And Martyr’s Day.
The final horrors of the second world war, were the bombing of Dresden on Februari13, 1945 and the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6,1945.
The Dresden bombardment created a firestorm, in which more than 50 000 people perished.
The first atomic bomb ever dropped in anger, killed, maimed or injured more than 129.000 persons, while it made 177 000 people homeless, by destroying 60% of the city of Hiroshima. A second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, three days later and Emperor Hirohito ordered all Japanese forces to lay down their arms on August 15, 1945.
I think, that this last stamp, issued by the Isle of Man, is a most fitting finale to close the file with:
These stamps issued by Austria and France draw our attention to the terrible refugee problem, that existed after the war. Millions of people without food, homes or country, migrating in search of safety. Some were trying to return to villages, from which they had been transported thousands of miles away and others were fleeing from countries overrun, by conquering armies..
There were Germans driven out of Poland and Silesia. There were 5 million Russian POWs and forced labourers, making their way to an uncertain reception. There were Eastern Europeans fleeing from the Red Army. There were Jews,who somehow had survived the Holocaust, making their way to ports, in the hope of reaching Palestine. Germans, who fled the bombing of their cities, were going home to stake their claims in the rubble of their homes. One person in five in Western Germany was a refugee. It was estimated that there were as many as 20 million people on the move in Europe. Others settled into camp life, unwilling to forego their tents and regular rations. Meagre as they were, these comforts were all important in a life, where nothing was certain or secure.
May it never happen again !!
Back to Rick's page
I have in my stamp collection, a collection of stamps about the second world war, which is divided in different sections.
This particular section of my 2nd world war collection, that I would like to share with you, is called the horror file of WW2 and it refers to the human cost of this war, that spanned the globe. When we refer to a war, we usually talk about the battles: where they were fought and who won. But when it comes to the human cost, we suddenly have historical amnesia.
World war 2 was a war, where the civilian casualties far outnumbered the military ones. Nobody knows for sure how many people lost their lives, but the most commonly accepted estimate is 55 million people.
The human cost does not only refer to the people killed in action, but also to the wounded, to the maimed, the war widows and orphans, the prisoners of war, the civilian bombing victims, the civilian concentration camp victims, the refugees and worst of all "the Holocaust".
The horror file of ww2, is the story of man’s inhumanity against man, as illustrated on postage stamps throughout the world.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them