How do you know about his visit to the concentration camp?
Because Rufus tells us about it in his diary. Have a look:
Friday November 3 “Left (Berlin) at 9am from Ministry of Interior to go to Lichtenburg concentration camp (in Prettin castle) near Leipzig – 100 miles.
Gen Faubisch, Swedish journalist, German church missionary (YMCA), young Norwegian on European tour with Ford car, German preacher from Brazil, a Red Cross man and Puifhé. Not home till 9pm. Tea at Wittenburg (where Luther nailed up his 95 Theses!). Very tired. Wrote dispatch in UP office at night.”
So the picture is of Lichtenburg Castle, and it was a concentration camp? Funny, I’ve always imagined concentration camps being barbed wire compounds with rows of huts for prisoners.
Most people do, because that’s what places like Auschwitz were like later on . But Lichtenburg was the first, opened in June 1933.
Rufus doesn’t say anything in his diary about his group talking to Herr Ebert – how did you know about that?
Because it was in that story he filed from the UP office, which then appeared in all the Southam newspapers in Canada – including the Province. Basically, Ebert, son of the first President of the Weimar Republic, had been brutally beaten by Nazi guards. The press got hold of the story and it ‘went viral’, or the 1933 equivalent. I think the Nazis wanted Rufus and the Swedish journalist to be able to report that Ebert was okay.
And did they?
Rufus certainly did, but he added that it was “strange that this was the first occasion any journalist was allowed to see him since the reported outrage.”
Anybody reading that would realise Rufus didn’t buy the Nazi claim that they treated their prisoners well.
Quite right. And just to make the point, Rufus then told a story that, in his words, “savoured of barbarous bullying” – of a prisoner being made to shout out, three times, in front of everybody: “I was a murderer – I stabbed a Nazi leader in the back.”
It’s hard to imagine how the Nazis thought people might believe them. The story reeks of menace – and Rufus, of course, wouldn’t live long enough to hear the really terrible stories about concentration camps. He was just reporting things as they seemed to him.
Which leads one to wonder whether the Gestapo was reading what Rufus was writing for Southam. Obviously somebody was.