Barry- Kurt Franz's Dog




Treblinka - Barry outside german quarters


Barry pictured outside the German Quarters in the Treblinka Death Camp (Kurt Franz Album)


Kurt Franz was interviewed in Dusseldorf on December 30, 1959, where he recalled:

In Treblinka I had a dog, whom I called Barry. This dog was once brought by somebody into the camp and he wanted to be with me. He was a mixture between Bernhardiner and New Foundler. He had a Jewish inmate as caretaker, who told me this. There were no other dogs in the camp.

But Barry first became known in the Sobibor death camp. Erich Bauer in a post-war interview claimed:

Bolender also went with the dog. It actually belonged to the Police. Beckmann brought it from Treblinka. Later on Stangl took it with him back to Treblinka.

Stanislaw Szmajner mentioned Bolender and the dog Barry in his book Hell in Sobibor - The Tragedy of a Teenager Jew:

In the afternoon, when I was already starting on the task, a Scharfuhrer came to our workshop. His name was Bolender and he was in very good company. It was a huge St. Bernhard dog which answered to the name of Barry. At first I thought it was tame. It did not bark at me, but stood quietly by its master. I was absolutely mistaken. I later learned that it was a very fierce watchdog.

Another of the SS Nco's on the SS -Sonderkommando's staff garrison was Ferdinand Gromer, who was known by the Jews as 'Red Cake.' He ordered Stanislaw Szmajner to make him a ring. Gustav Wagner had warned Stanislaw Szmajner not to make any rings without his approval. Stanislaw Szmajner recalled what happened next:

When the three days had elapsed, 'Red Cake' came in the morning to get his ring. He asked me if I had made it and I said I had not. Then he said, All right.

He left very calmly followed by his famous dog, Barry. Once in the yard he started to blow his whistle and to shout like a madman - 'Come out all of you , you tramps, you lazy Jewish curs.'

Immediately a torrent of men, including ourselves had to run out of their places of work. When he saw us all in the yard, the Boche blew his whistle again to make us align. Then he started the punishment, making all of us crouch, raise, run, stop and crawl. He did all of this at the blow of a whistle, in endless succession, abruptly alternating the painful movements of the sweating Jews, already exhausted by the violence of the inhuman exercise.

However, the sadism of the drunken Nazi had not reached its climax yet. At a given moment, he blew his whistle to make us all lie down and drawing his gun started to shoot at us. With the bullets whizzing past my head, my only thought was - This time I'm done for. After he had fired his last shot he walked in our direction and stopped beside me. He kicked me violently and shouted, 'Run!'

I got up quickly and started to run as fast as I could. I had only gone a few meters when I got a violent blow from behind, and then I felt terrible pain. Barry had attacked and bitten me. I still have the scar that his sharp teeth left where they tore off my flesh. It seemed as if Red Cake wanted to put an end to me with his dog that had been trained to do that.

All of a sudden a saving order was heard, given at the right moment. It was as if it had fallen from heaven. Wagner had come, no one knew where and ordered my torturer to call his dog off me.

Helene Eidenbock, the mother-in-law of Franz Stangl, who lived in Vienna, recalled this in Gitta Sereny's book, 'Into That Darkness, '

Resl and the two girls came to stay with me overnight on their way back from Poland. I went to meet them at the East Station. No she didn't seem very depressed, not that I remember. She said they'd been staying at a fish-hatchery and I saw all their photographs... was it then or later, I am not sure - of him too, yes in that white jacket, with the children, and a big dog too I remember..... Later of course, when we read what he was - I thought of that photo and thought, 'It only needed the riding crop and there he was, just as they described him at the trial.'

During August 1942, Franz Stangl the commandant of the Sobibor death camp was transferred to the Treblinka, and he took Barry with him. Barry attached himself to Kurt Franz, who had been transferred to Treblinka at around the same time from Belzec:

Jankiel Wiernik who was deported from the Warsaw ghetto on August 23, 1942, to the Treblinka death camp, he recalled, as he waited in line at the morning roll-call:

'i was jolted from my thoughts by the command: 'Attention!' A group of Scharfuhrer's and Ukrainian guards, headed by Untersturmfuhrer Franz with his dog Barry stood before us. Franz announced that he was about to give a command. At a signal from him, they began to torture us anew, blows falling thick and fast.

Franciszek Zabecki, who worked for the Polish railways at the Treblinka village station, recalled an incident on September 1st, 1942. Beyond the railway lines, and parallel to them, ran a concrete road, beyond which was an excavation overgrown with bushes. Fugitives, seeing this thicket, often hid there before fleeing further away. As a train of deportees stood in the station, waiting to be shunted into the death camp, several of the deportees had managed to break out of the trains made for the thicket:

'One of the SS men who had arrived at the station that day - he was Kurt Franz, deputy commandant of the camp - came out with his dog along the road. The dog scenting something, pulled the SS man after it into the thicket. A Jewess was lying there with a baby; probably she was already dead. The baby, a few months old, was crying and nestling against its mother's bosom.

The dog, let off the lead, tracked them down, but at a certain distance it crouched on the ground. It looked as if it was getting ready to jump, to bite them and tear them to pieces. However, after a time it began to cringe and whimper dolefully, and approached the people lying on the ground; crouching, it licked the baby on its hands, face and head.

The SS man came up to the scene with his gun in his hand. He sensed the dog's weakness. The dog began to wag its tail, turning its head towards the boots of the SS man. The German swore violently and flogged the dog with his stick. The dog looked up and fled. Several times the German kicked the dead woman, and then began to kick the baby and trample on its head. Later he walked through the bushes, whistling for his dog.

The dog did not seem to hear, although it was not far away; it ran through the bushes whimpering softly; it appeared to be looking for the people. After a time, the SS man came out on to the road, and the dog ran up to its master. The German then began to beat it mercilessly with a whip. The dog howled, barked, even jumped up to the German's chest as if it were rabid, but the blows with the whip got the better of it. On the master's command it lay down.

The German went a few paces away, and ordered the dog to stand. The dog obeyed the order perfectly. It carefully licked the boots, undoubtedly splattered with the baby's blood, under its muzzle. Satisfied, the SS man began to shoot and set the dog on other Jews who were still escaping from the wagons standing in the station.'

Samuel Willenberg in his book 'Surviving Treblinka' recalled how Kurt Franz strode into the yard where the clothing of the murdered victims were being sorted:

'While looking at the foreman, he gestured with a leather-gloved hand at one of the toiling prisoners. The latter began to perform a variety of strange acrobatic movements in his effort to achieve maximum speed in sorting the jackets of the murdered and arranging them in nice, even rows. The SS-man, however, was not impressed by all these efforts. With a barely perceptible motion, he ordered him to approach. The bespectacled prisoner drew near, cringing, whereupon the officer gathered up his full, massive weight and struck him, threw him to the ground and kicked him.

Beside him stood a beautiful Saint Bernhard dog. This species is the epitome of humane virtue. He is known for trudging into the snowy Alps, a barrel of rum about his neck, and rescuing people freezing to death in the snow. So I recalled from illustrations in children's books. This particular animal, however, had been painstakingly trained by his master to be as wild a monster as his master was.The dog would leap upon prisoners and tear away chunks of their flesh, with a special preference for genitals.

Now, too, dog and master toyed with this prisoner, who, at first writhed with terror. As the master rained blows of fist and boot, the dog bit and gnawed at what soon became a corpse. I was witnessing a pair of bloodthirsty demons. Suddenly the SS officer let up, folded his arms across his chest. Napoleonic-ally, turned his back, and mounted the pile of clothing and underwear which represented the earthly remains of the murdered Jews. Summoning his dog, he now began to indulge in a characteristic game: drawing his handgun, aiming it slowly and carefully at the men at work, and shooting. His success depended on his mood. 

Kurt Franz again in the interview in Dusseldorf on December 30, 1959, where he recounted:

After the dissolution of the camp Treblinka, I brought the dog to the then Oberstabsarzt Dr Friedrich Struwe, chief doctor of the reserve Lazarett Ostrow, who later on took him with him, home. The dog was a very good humoured animal, and has surely never done anything bad to a human being.

Responding to an observation:

If asked and told that a series of former inmates of the camp Treblinka declare unanimously, that a dog by the name of Barry had been chased by myself on the inmates, and that he butchered them, so I declare. If things like that are being told, I can only declare that this is not so. Often I took the dog with me to the Lazarett in Ostrow. If he had been such a beast, as is being alleged according to the declarations put forward to me and the sworn assurances, he would surely not have behaved peacefully there, but had also attacked people there.


Sources

Kurt Franz Interview in Dusseldorf, 30th December 1959, NARA Washington DC

NIOD File 804, Amsterdam

Stanislaw Szmajner, Hell in Sobibor - The Tragedy of a Teenager Jew, unpublished version in author's private archive

G. Sereny, Into That Darkness, Pimlico, London 1974

Samuel Willenberg, Surviving Treblinka, Basil Blackwell, Oxford 1989

A.Donat, The Death Camp Treblinka, Holocaust Library, New York 1979

M. Gilbert, The Holocaust, William Collins, London 1986

Photograph: Kurt Franz Album


Holocaust Historical Society May 12, 2021