ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (AP) — Loren Allison was drafted into the Army during World War II in 1944, at age 18, and arrived in Europe in spring 1945, as combat with the Germans was coming to a close.
“He joked that when the Germans heard he was coming, they surrendered,” recalled his nephew, Greg Glaske, of St. Joseph.
While he missed combat, Allison, of South Bend, took part in one of the major post-war events, serving as a clerk in the War Crimes office. He returned with a unique record of the tragedy of the Holocaust — photographs of the destruction of the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto by the Nazis.
This historical record stayed hidden (though copies of many were published) until Allison died in 2011 and family members, including Glaske, began cleaning out his house. In a shoe box, they found a cache of what appear to be original photos from the Stroop Report, the Nazi account of the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto, named for SS General Jurgen Stroop, who oversaw the operation.
The Stroop photos were taken as part of the Nazi propaganda machine celebrating the annihilation of Jewish people, but were turned on them during war crimes trials, including at Nuremberg.
Allison’s belongings also included graphic photographs of the execution of Nazi spies and others by the U.S. military, with names and details of their crimes typed on the back of the prints.
Although the family knew that Allison had worked in the War Crimes office, it wasn’t something he spoke a lot about.
And they had no idea he had returned to the U.S. with a collection of heartbreaking images of Jewish people being rounded up, bodies stacked in the streets, and ragged and emaciated children.
“I was kind of shocked to find the pictures,” said Glaske, who researched them for a year to verify their authenticity.
The Herald-Palladium reports that those photos are being donated to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Israel, and copies of the photos and Allison’s diary are being sent to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. for a special exhibit.
While many of the photos are in the public domain, others have never been published, Glaske said.
The photos will be personally carried to Israel this week by Marty Marcus, a St. Joseph native and friend of Glaske’s, now living in San Francisco.
It was Marcus who first made contact with the museum in Israel. He said the curators will verify the authenticity of the images. They have received copies, and based on their quality and the dates and other information on the back of the prints, they are confident that they are originals, he said.
“They said the quality of Greg’s photos is much better than some of theirs,” Marcus said.
Glaske said he believes the photos are original because the photo paper is the type in use at that time. And some of the photos aren’t in the public domain, he added.
He said his mother thinks that Allison typed the comments on the back of the photos, which would explain how he obtained them.
While other family members were reluctant to delve into the past, Glaske was determined to find out more about his uncle’s experiences and the people who were persecuted by the Nazis. He said he wished he had been able to see the photos with his uncle and get more details before he died.
“It was the defining experience of his life,” Glaske said.
Loren Allison was drafted on Aug. 17, 1944, according to the diary he kept during his time in the service. His older brother, Harry, known as Red, enlisted a week after the attack on Pearl Harbor and saw combat in the Philippines, Saipan and Iwo Jima.
The diary chronicles his basic training and assignments to other camps, before being alerted they were shipping out, on his 19th birthday. President Franklin Roosevelt had died the day before, and was buried on the day that Allison and the others boarded their ship bound for Europe.
They made their way through France, and in September Allison was informed that he was being assigned to Allied Supreme Headquarters, in Frankfurt, Germany. He was transferred to Weisbaden, where he started a romance with a German girl.
By day, Allison was playing a part in the effort to prosecute the perpetrators of the genocide that claimed the lives of 6 million Jewish people. One of the most notorious war criminals was Jurgen Stroop, the SS leader in occupied Poland who ordered and meticulously recorded the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto and the murder of more than 50,000 men, women and children.
Stroop was sent by SS Chief Heinrich Himmler to suppress the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising that started in April 1943, the largest single revolt by Jewish people during WWII. He ordered the entire ghetto to be burned down, building by building. Many died in the conflagration. The survivors were rounded up and either executed on the spot or sent to death camps. The campaign lasted until May 16, when the Great Synagogue was blown up.
Rather than hide their crimes, the Nazis took great pains to record every detail, including 115 photographs that were included in Stroop’s final report, titled “The Jewish Quarter in Warsaw No Longer Exists.”
The photos show Stroop proudly directing his smiling troops as they corral Jewish people from bunkers and other hiding places. The skies are black with smoke as entire blocks go up in flames and masses of humanity are marched through the rubble. One photo shows a woman leaping from a burning building.
Three leather-bound copies of the report were produced, including one for Himmler and one for Stroop, which he had in his possession when he was captured by the Americans. He also had additional photos that hadn’t been published.
One copy of the report was used during the Nuremberg war crimes trial, as well as in court proceedings against Stroop.
Stroop was first tried by the U.S. military at Dachau, the death camp near Munich, where he was convicted of murdering nine American POWs in his district. He was sentenced to death by hanging in 1947, and then extradited to Poland to face charges of war crimes related to the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto and other atrocities. He was hanged in 1951.
Allison’s diary does not discuss specifics about his work in the War Crimes office, perhaps due to the sensitivity of the information.
By the time Stroop was sentenced by the U.S. military, Loren Allison had left Germany and his romantic partner behind, returning to the U.S. in June 1946.
But the memories of what he had experienced, like the box full of photographs, stayed hidden.
Allison returned to the normal life stateside that many veterans sought. He worked manufacturing parts for Studebaker, and married Mary Louise Kalil in 1947. They remained married 55 years until her death in 2002. They had a son, Mark, in 1954, who died in 2005. His mother and father lived to be 93 and 94, respectively, and his brother Red died in 2007 at 80.
Greg Glaske remembers his uncle as “a joker” who liked to laugh and who always had a good story to tell. But not about his war experiences.
When the photos came to light, Glaske knew he wanted them to go to a museum, and contacted Marty Marcus.
“He was just blown away” by the photos, Glaske said. “I thought that if anyone would know what to do with them, he would.”
Marcus, who is Jewish, has a friend with the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, who helped arrange their donation to the center.
Marcus said members of his family died during the Holocaust, and that it’s important for future generations to know what happened as survivors pass away.
Glaske said he has been haunted by the images since their discovery, and has even had nightmares about them.
He noted that even today, with all the historical evidence, some people still deny that the Holocaust took place — including a white supremacist and anti-Semite expected to be on the primary ballot for an Illinois congressional seat in Chicago.
Citizens need to be educated about this history so it never happens again, Glaske said.
“He brought these home for a reason,” Glaske said of his uncle. “People need to see them.”
Information from: The Herald-Palladium, http://www.heraldpalladium.com