Professor’s books expose female Nazis

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe joys and headaches of holiday travel: John Phillips160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! MOORPARK — When the news broke about the deportation of former concentration camp guard Elfriede Huth Rinkel, Moorpark College professor Daniel Patrick Brown already knew the name. Even though the 84-year-old Rinkel had kept her past a secret from her Jewish husband, who died at 88 last year in San Francisco, her maiden name of Huth was on a list of concentration camp overseers whose work Brown had written about in two books. “The Beautiful Beast — The Life and Crimes of SS-Aufseherin Irma Grese” was published in 1998, and “The Camp Women — The Female Auxiliaries of the Nazi Concentration Camp System” was published in 2002 and mentions Huth. The two books have made Brown an international authority on the subject of the female guards and the Ravensbruck concentration camp where Elfriede Huth worked as a guard and dog handler. “I have all the data on the women. Nobody has ever put together all of this information,” said Brown, who teaches courses on the subject at Moorpark College. Brown said the female concentration camp guards were called SS Aufseherin, or overseers, and were considered assistants or auxiliaries to the SS members who ran the concentration camps. Rachel Jagoda Lithgow, executive director of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, said she had read both of Brown’s books and felt it was an important subject for more research. “I think the role of women in the Holocaust, be they victim or perpetrator, is one of the last areas not well-researched and documented as it could be,” she said. “For Dan to focus on this subject is very important. The role of women in the Holocaust is not well-known to the public.” The federal government found Elfriede Huth Rinkel living in San Francisco and returned her to Germany in late August. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Huth denied wrongdoing and said she had only watched prisoners so they wouldn’t “run away.” Brown said U.S. officials are continuing to track female concentration camp guards who escaped after World War II and may have come to the United States undetected — like Rinkel. “When the news broke about her, in a way it didn’t surprise me and in a way it did,” Brown said. “A lot of these women simply got away. They just walked away and got out of Germany claiming they were victims.” He said the female guards in movies such as “Schindler’s List,” “Sophie’s Choice” and the “Hiding Place” are generally seen in the background. But in fact many of these women were brutal, including Irma Grese, a guard at Ravensbruck at Auschwitz and at Bergen-Belsen in 1945, when Anne Frank died there a few weeks before the camp was liberated. “Irma Grese was a horrible, evil woman,” he said. “She killed many, many people. She and other female guards did things that can’t be printed.” Grese was tried and hanged on Dec. 13, 1945. Brown, 59, has a master’s degree in history from Colorado State University and did postgraduate work in Holocaust studies at the University of Colorado and at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He served in the U.S. Army in Europe and gave tours of Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam to embassy personnel and high-ranking officers. When he was in the Army, he asked a woman in a German pub what she did in the war, and she revealed reluctantly that she used to be a concentration camp guard, which led him to seek information on the subject and eventually focus on it in his academic career. “Very few people knew much about these women. I couldn’t believe there hadn’t been a biography written about Irma Grese,” he said. He said he knew Elfriede Huth’s name and where she worked from German records and mentioned her in one of his books, but he could only speculate about her actions. Brown said some of the female guards actually tried to be kind to prisoners and help if they could, but these guards in general were encouraged to be cruel. “The key lesson is to always be human and humane,” he said. “I think in our culture there are too many good people to allow us to ever go the way of the Nazis, but you never know.” — Eric Leach, (805) 583-7602 [email protected]last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *