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Shofar FTP Archive File: orgs/german/topf-und-soehne/topf.001

Archive/File: orgs/german/topf.a.j. topf.001
Last-Modified: 1994/12/05

Newsgroups: soc.culture.jewish.holocaust
Subject: Builder of Holocaust ovens wants to reclaim property
Date: 5 Sep 1994 15:16:00 GMT
Organization: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Message-ID: <34fcng$
Title: Topf family descendent attempting to regain family estate

In a recent news article by Mary Williams Walsh of the Los Angeles Times, 
it was reported that Dagmar Topf, a 50 year old therapist from 
Schleswig-Holstein, has recently filed a claim in the name of the Topf 
brothers' descendents in an attempt to regain more than $3 million in 
confiscated real estate.

The family business of A.J. Topf & Company constructed ovens during WWII 
which were used to systematically dispose of the millions of bodies of 
victims killed at Auschwitz, Dachau, and Buchenwald.  The doors to the 
crematoria were proudly emblazoned with the name "Topf" in large brass 
Gothic letters.

The family estate was seized by the Soviets at the end of the war, and 
like other Germans, Dagmar Topf is now seeking to have the land returned 
to her.  Ms. Topf denied that her ancestors had known about the use of 
their ovens.  "I feel quite sure that they didn't know how their ovens 
were being used," she said in the interview.  But records show differently.

The brothers joined the National Socialist Party in 1935.  Later, one 
company engineer took out a patent on his "Auschwitz-style" oven that could 
burn 30 to 36 corpses in 10 hours.  This engineer, Kurt Pruefer, went on 
to create a 46-chambered oven, and was given the nickname "the Wizard of 
Cremation."  Dagmar Topf, when faced with these facts, argued that the 
brothers joined the Nazi party because they had to, and that the 
crematoria that were built on such large scale were "civil crematoria."
It is doubtful that any normal funeral home could ever employ such a 
large scale crematorium for "civilian" purposes.

At issue is not the fact that this woman is attempting to regain her 
family's property, like many other Germans.  More importantly, the fact 
is that she is denying her past, the past of her family which helped the 
Nazis to dispose of the "evidence" of their crimes.  Some have argued 
that without the improved technology of machines like these, the Nazis 
would have had a more difficult time killing so many.  Without the 
engineers who made the trains to the camps more efficient, without the 
chemists who developed Zyklon B, without these men who built 46-chambered 
"civil" crematoria, perhaps a few more lives could have been spared from 
the ever efficeient military-industral complex which chewed up Jews and 
used their labor and remains to build the Third Reich.


The following was submitted in December, 1994, for the Holocaust
Research Mailing List:

RTna 12/01 1608 Germany against paying camp crematorium claim 

By Arthur Spiegelman

NEW YORK (Reuter) - The heirs of the family that built Hitler's death-camp
crematoriums will have their claims for financial compensation rejected,
according to a letter by Germany's minister of justice released Thursday. 
The heirs to J.A. Topf & Sons are seeking compensation for property worth
more than $2 million that was confiscated after World War II by the
then-East German Communist regime.

Their plea for the return of the factory site in Erfurt where the
crematoriums were built for Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps has
already been rejected.

German Federal Minister of Justice Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, in a
letter to Berlin Mayor Wolfgang Lueder, said that the heirs are not
eligible for compensation under the country's restitution laws. 

The letter, dated Nov. 12, was released in New York by the World Jewish
Congress which received it from Lueder.

The minister of justice, while noting that it is up to a provincial
government to make the final decision on compensation, said the law was
quite clear on the issue.

She said the law stated no compensation could be granted to the heirs of an
"enterprise that acted against the principles of human rights or state

The letter added, "This exclusion should be valid concerning Topf & Sons.
The cremation systems it developed and the crematoria it built for mass
extermination in Auschwitz were a substantive contribution to maintain in
force the murder machinery of the extermination camp, since several
thousand bodies had to be eliminated every day.

"The claim for compensation will therefore also have to be rejected." The
World Jewish Congress said it welcomed the justice minister's letter,
adding that it showed sensitivity and moral substance. 

J.A. Topf & Sons was hired during the war by the SS to build the
crematoriums used to burn the bodies killed by poison gas and other means
at Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau and several other death camps where
millions of Jews were murdered.

Ludwig Topf, who ran the company during the war and dispatched engineers to
build the crematoriums, committed suicide in 1945. His surviving brother
Ernst-Wolfgang fled the Soviet zone of occupation and in 1953 received
patents for the crematoriums his company built.

The company's top-of-the-line furnance was dubbed "the Auschwitz model" and
declared perfect by the company's engineers who said it actually burned
one-third more bodies than originally predicted. 

The Topf heirs were seeking compensation under laws passed after Germany's
unification in 1991.


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