Re The Lies Of Gena And Norman Turgel

93c Venner Road,
London SE26 5HU.
0181 659 7713

May 18, 1996,

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to you in connection with the book I Light a Candle,
which was published by Grafton in 1988. I read this book only
late last year but though it is now “old hat” so to speak I feel
obliged to point out a number of gross historical errors, distor-
tions and outright lies in the text which I am sure that as a
respected and reputable publisher you will want to correct for
any subsequent edition. These errors, distortions and lies are
attributable both to Mrs Turgel and to her husband. I will deal
with the latter first.

In Norman’s Chapter which starts on page 135, he reports canni-
balism in Belsen, which is unquestionably true; this was reported
by both inmates and staff - eg the British survivor, the Jersey
schoolteacher Mr Harold Osmond Le Druillenec, and by the Comman-
dant, Josef Kramer. Unfortunately, this is about the only thing
in this chapter which is true.

Mr Turgel reports on pages 135-6 that “The first person I ar-
rested was Josef Kramer, the camp commandant”. Then he reports
that he locked Kramer in a refrigerator for 24 hours, interroga-
ted him and made out the arrest warrant! The true facts about the
surrender of Belsen concentration camp are well documented and
easily checkable; they can be found in the WO 235 series files of
the War Office which are held at the Public Record Office.

The first British soldier to enter Belsen was Lieutenant (later
Captain) Derrick A. Sington, who published a book on his exper-
iences, Belsen Uncovered, in 1946. A chapter of this book was
later republished as a chapter of a 1957 study published in
Israel, Belsen. With Sington were Sergeant Eric Clyne and Lance
Corporal Sidney Roberts; they entered the camp on April 15, 1945
and stayed until August. They were sent to the camp because
between them they spoke five European languages. Prior to the
liberation, two German colonels accompanied by some Hungarian
soldiers had turned up at the British lines with a white flag and
informed them of the typhus epidemic raging at the camp.

Mr Turgel gives the impression that he was in charge of this
operation, yet he was a mere sergeant. The man who actually ran
the show was Brigadier H.L. Glyn Hughes, Chief Medical Officer of
the 2nd Army. Like Sington he gave evidence at the Belsen Trial
at Luneberg. Norman Turgel did not give evidence at this trial;
his name is not even listed in the Times index for April 1945.

When Commandant Kramer was met by the British he was certainly
not thrown into a refrigerator, rather he was ordered to show the
liberating army around the camp. According to Mr Turgel’s report
he seems personally to have arrested half the staff of the camp
single-handedly. If anyone can be said to have arrested Kramer it
was Sington, or Lieutenant-Colonel Taylor, the latter who placed
him under close arrest on the evening of April 15th. Kramer was
then placed in a dark, concrete floored cell without blankets. He
was subsequently exhibited to the world as the “Beast of Belsen”.

On pages 154-5, Mr Turgel says that about 75% of the SS staff of
Belsen were hanged, including most of the women guards, and that
some were sentenced from 10 years to life.

The facts are that most of the staff had already deserted by the
time the British arrived, over a dozen died of typhus after the
liberation and at least two SS men were shot while trying to
escape. Typhus was rampant, most of the inmates were starving,
and the few remaining staff prior to the surrender had great
difficulty keeping order. It was undoubtedly this which was
partially responsible for many of the brutalities reported in the
last few weeks of the war, although this in no sense excuses

According to Public Record Office file WO 235/12 - which is
unquestionably far more reliable than Mr Turgel - there were 48
accused in all at the main Belsen trial, although only 45 stood
trial. The charges related to both Belsen and the Auschwitz
camps. There were 11 death sentences and 14 acquittals. There was
no finding against one defendant due to illness, while Zoddel,
defendant number 19, was sentenced to death for another crime and
executed. Of those gaoled for their crimes, all but two had been
released by 1954 - the year this report was written - and the
last two were scheduled for release the following year. Not all
those tried were SS staff; Oscar Schmedidtz alias Schmitz was a
petty criminal and inmate who ended up in the dock because he had
donned an SS uniform after being abused by other inmates when the
camp was surrendered (on account of his German nationality). He
was acquitted. Twelve of those on trial were former Kapos, (ie

I have found nothing to support Mr Turgel’s claim that a bag of
ground glass was found in the kitchen which was used to doctor
inmates’ soup, and doubt very much that this has any basis in
fact. The claim that Kramer had made lampshades from human skin
is also utter nonsense. Mr Turgel says he was told this, which
may be true, but he is probably confusing Kramer with Karl Koch,
the Commandant of Buchenwald camp.

Koch and his wife were depraved individuals. He was said to have
been a homosexual and she a whore. In August 1943, he was ar-
rested on fraud, embezzlement and “other charges” and was actual-
ly executed by the SS in April 1945. A number of tattooed skins -
possibly grisly mementos - were found after the war at Buchenwald
camp, so too were a couple of shrunken heads. All this is rather
academic though because nothing like this was found at Belsen,
which was actually started as a camp for privileged Jews before
becoming a camp for sick people, and although the Nazis carried
out medical experiments on inmates in selected camps which have
rightly been described as “murderous science”, there is no evi-
dence that they commissioned lampshades or any other artifacts
from human skin.

On page 149, Mr Turgel claims to have arrested Josef Keindel, the
Commandant of Oranienburg; is there any leading Nazi this valiant
war hero didn’t arrest?

Finally, on page 203 of the Epilogue, Mr Turgel has the nerve to
claim that “there should be much more emphasis on history in
Britain’s schools, for the benefit of the younger generation.” I
cannot but agree.

Unfortunately, Mr Turgel’s lies have spilt over into at least one
other publication. In his 1994 book Giles At War, Peter Tory
reports that Kramer was arrested by a Jewish sergeant named
Norman Turgel; again, this is patent nonsense. In this book it is
claimed too that Kramer was a fan of Giles - the long-serving
Daily Express cartoonist. Giles is supposed to have met him -
which may be true, and Kramer to have addressed him in English,
which is doubtful. In fact, coverage of Belsen by the Daily
in April 1945 is rather disappointing. I wrote to Mr Tory
about this but never received a reply.

Returning to Mr Turgel, his outrageous lies are compounded by his
wife’s fantasies. On page 52 she says that “we knew that Belsen
was a Vernichtungslager (extermination camp).” She may have known
this but no historian who knows anything about the Second World
War would make any such claim.

On pages 106-8, Mrs Turgel claims to have been inside a gas
chamber at Auschwitz and gives a lengthy description of her
alleged ordeal. I seem to recall seeing her on TV a few years ago
making the same claim; this was probably after the publication of
her (largely ghost written) book. Mrs Turgel was so obviously
inside an ordinary shower that one wonders why this ridiculous
passage was included, if not to attempt to discredit so-called
Holocaust deniers. On page 127 she says that Dr Mengele moved to
Belsen. This is nonsense.

According to the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Mengele was
transferred to Mauthausen on the evacuation of Auschwitz but all
trace of him was lost after May 5, 1945, the date of the liber-
ation of the camp. Another source claims that he was arrested in
June 1945 but posed as a soldier, although using his own name. As
you undoubtedly know, he was never caught, but is believed to
have died in 1979 in Brazil, where he had been living for years
in anonymous poverty. Whatever happened to Dr Mengele at the end
of the war, he certainly never went to Belsen.

On page 133 Mrs Turgel reports that “Anne Frank was in my bar-
rack. She was already at Belsen when I arrived and lay a few
bunks away from me, dying from typhus. I can remember so clearly
my mother telling me about this Dutch girl in the barrack who had
apparently written a diary. Other people were talking about it,
too, and whispering and shushing because they knew she was dying.
She had had to leave the diary behind in Holland.”

It is not impossible that Anne Frank was in Mrs Turgel’s barrack,
but her claim about the diary is obvious nonsense; Anne Frank
died in anonymity, and although she may well have intended to
publish the diary herself, it is difficult to credit that a girl
of her age, separated from her family, alone, frightened, and
dying of a terrible wasting disease, would have had this on her
mind above all else. It is even more difficult to believe that
any of her fellow inmates would have had the slightest interest
in either the diary or her, at least no more so than in any other
young girl dying of typhus, because there was no shortage of them
in Belsen at this time.

Anne Frank’s diary was found by Miep Gies, who had helped hide
the Frank family; when Otto Frank returned home after the war and
learned that his daughters were dead, she gave him the diary.
According to Professor Deborah Lipstadt, the diary was turned
down by a number of publishers; (even after it was published in
Europe it was rejected by no less than ten American publishers);
it was only through Otto Frank’s persistence that it saw the
light of day. Incidentally, the reason Anne and her family were
in hiding does tend to detract somewhat from the romance of the
story. Again, according to the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, the
Franks went into hiding when Anne’s elder sister was called up
for forced labour.

Finally, although Mrs Turgel may well have been a Belsen bride,
she was by no means the bride of Belsen. The aforementioned 1957
study refers to several marriages in the camp, which is hardly
surprising because many thousands of prisoners of both sexes sur-
vived, and the camp remained opened until 1950. However, the name
Turgel appears nowhere in the index to this book any more than in
the relevant Times index.

Even more curiously, I could find no mention of Mrs Turgel’s
marriage in the Jewish Chronicle. She claims to have been married
at Lubeck synagogue on October 7, 1945. I checked this at St.
Catherine’s House, and sure enough, Norman Turgel and Gena Gold-
finger were indeed married at Lubeck, if not on that date then in
that quarter. However, her claim that she arrived in Britain on
November 10, 1945 to “A crowd of photographers and reporters” who
were waiting just for her, ‘the bride from Belsen’ appears like-
wise to be untrue. One would expect this to be reported in the
Jewish Chronicle if in no other newspaper, but as with the Times
I could find no mention either of her marriage or of her coming
to England.

Just as curiously, she is not mentioned at all in the 1958 book
by Rabbi Leslie Hardman. THE SURVIVORS: The story of the Belsen
, was actually “Told” by Leslie H. Hardman and written by
Cecily Goodman. Rabbi Hardman served at Belsen from the day after
the liberation.

He does report that another inmate “Dr Marta” (an obvious pseudo-
nym) had received a proposal of marriage from a British officer -
which he did his best to persuade her to refuse. On racial
grounds! I have a good idea who this “Dr Marta” really was and
will check it out in due course, but it was certainly not the
young Gena Goldfinger. On page 111 of his book Rabbi Hardman too
reports that there were a number of weddings in the camp, appar-
ently before that of the Turgels’.

One final point I would like to make. As well as marriages, there
appear to have been many relationships in Belsen - and presumably
other camps - which were extremely sordid.

In her book I Was A Doctor In Auschwitz, Gisella Perl, who ar-
rived at Belsen on March 7, 1945, reported open prostitution in
the camp: “there were some who sold their bodies for cigarettes,
chocolate and other small comforts.” According to her account,
liaisons between servicemen and female inmates were very common,
though one should not of course judge people harshly for acting
so in such terrible times. The one thing that can be said in Mrs
Turgel’s favour is that she rose far above this sort of thing and
remained happily married for over forty years.

Yours sincerely,
A Baron

Peter Tory,                                  93c Venner Road,
c/o Express Newspapers.           Sydenham,
                                                     London SE26 5HU.
                                                      0181 659 7713
                                                      E-Mail A_Baron@ABaron.Demon.Co.UK

April 10, 1996

Dear Sir,

I recently came across your most interesting compilation of
Giles’ cartoons from the Second World War; I was particularly
interested in his account of the Commandant of Belsen, Josef
Kramer. You mention that Kramer was arrested by a Sergeant Norman
Turgel; I would like to read more about this, the liberation of
Belsen and the arrest of Kramer in particular and wondered if you
could point me in the right direction. I suppose most of your
collection came from Giles in person but I would be most interes-
ted in finding any written accounts.

Yours sincerely,
A Baron


The above correspondence was totally reformatted on December 15, 2013. The original, archived version can be found here.

A few comments re content: in 2003, The Public Record Office was superseded by The National Archives. The Dr Marta alluded to is either Olga Lengyel or more likely Gisella Perl. The two women allude to each other in their respective books: Perl refers to Lengyel as Olga Schwartz; Lengyel to Perl as Dr “G.” - Perl appears to have been enamoured with Lengyel; this affection was most definitely not reciprocated. On page 30 of her book, Lengyel reports Perl’s suicide attempt, which is confirmed elsewhere in the survivor literature.

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