Martin Dannenberg, 94, died August 18. Unfortunately, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad never met him.
While Americans will not recognize the name, Dannenberg made one of the most startling discoveries of World War II. Two days before Adolf Hitler committed suicide, a German official led U.S. Army Sgt. Dannenberg to a bank vault containing a manila envelope, sealed with swastikas stamped in red wax. Opening it, the young sergeant pulled out a four-page document signed by Hitler.
Before explaining its contents, one must understand the individual mindsets of Ahmadinejad and Dannenberg as to what happened in Germany under Hitler’s dictatorial rule.
For those born after World War II, like Ahmadinejad, the documentation substantiating the Nazi extermination effort of millions of European Jews in concentration camps is readily available. Nonetheless, Ahmadinejad declares the Holocaust a “myth,” having hosted a 2006 Holocaust-denial conference. While Ahmadinejad remains sensitive to Prophet Muhammad’s depiction in cartoon form, he insensitively mocks Holocaust victims’ deaths by recently launching a Holocaust-denial cartoon website.
Ahmadinejad’s claim of a Holocaust myth also is busted by documentation of another Islamic extremist’s involvement in the horror. The Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin Al Housseini, collaborated with Nazi death merchants Adolf Eichmann and Heinrich Himmler to help expedite the extermination process.
For Sgt. Dannenberg, however, there was no doubt the Holocaust was real. Just days before his document discovery, he had seen Holocaust horrors firsthand at Dachau, where stacks of emaciated bodies were piled up “like cordwood.”
The document Dannenberg discovered was Hitler’s “Holy Grail”—his final solution to the Jewish “problem” by means of extermination. It was the 1935 “Nuremburg Law” by which the dictator legalized discrimination against Jewish Germans. In a 1999 interview, Dannenberg recounted his realization that document is what had triggered the Jewish persecution. It required those considered Jewish Germans to be stripped of citizenship and barred from intermarriage with Aryan Germans. The document started a Jewish nightmare that included the 1938 “Kristallnacht” (night of anti-Jewish riots), deportations and, eventually, the death camps.
In 2001, Muslim cleric Yasir Qadhi said he doubted the extent of the Holocaust—a statement he later recanted, acknowledging it was based on misinformation. Last month, Qadhi was one of eight American imams to go to Germany to examine firsthand the evidence at Dachau and Auschwitz. Upon their return, they issued a statement attesting to the deaths of six million Jews in the Holocaust and condemning any attempts to deny “this historical reality”—denial which, they said, was “against the Islamic code of ethics.”
In individual interviews, it is clear all were deeply affected by what they saw—“overwhelmed by the sheer inhumanity of it” and unable to comprehend “how such evil could be unleashed.” A sobering piece of evidence of this evil were the words “Never Again”—scratched into a gas chamber wall by a Jewish victim minutes before death as a warning to future generations.
The first Nazi concentration camp U.S. forces liberated in 1945 was Ohrdruf. Reports about the atrocities there reached Gen. Dwight Eisenhower. He visited the camp to be able to attest firsthand to what he saw should there be a future denial. Journalists accompanying him took photographs, creating irrefutable evidence the Holocaust occurred.
Eisenhower was right to preserve an historical record of the Holocaust so future generations could not deny it. He was wrong to believe it would suffice in the eyes of men like Ahmadinejad whose hatred and intolerance—ensconced into his Islamic extremist beliefs—blind him to the past sufferings of humanity and the warning left as one victim’s last earthly act.