David Irving, Hitler and Holocaust Denial: Electronic Edition, by Richard J. Evans

Table of Contents
(iv) Conclusion >>

(i) Historical context

1. On 1 September 1939, German troops invaded Poland, and overran and defeated it within weeks. The most western parts of Poland were incorporated directly into the German Reich (Danzig Westpreussen; Warthegau; Zichenau). The central parts of Poland under German control, next to the new Soviet borders, were placed under German civilian administration. This area became known as the General Government.
2. Soon after the invasion of Poland, leading Nazis, including SS leader Heinrich Himmler, began to put into action a wide-scale plan of ethnic cleansing in the new territories under German control. In September 1939, Hitler had suggested establishing three distinct population belts from west to east: the first, the territory which was incorporated into Germany, was to become totally German, through the expulsion of Jews, Gypsies and Poles. The place of these people was to be taken by ethnic Germans from other parts of Eastern Europe. The Poles were to be concentrated in the second, central area of Poland, the western part of the General Governement. Finally, the Jews were to be deported into the third area, the most eastern region of the General Government, the Lublin region.1 In the following years, this 'ethnic domino-policy' was partially realised by the forcible   deportation of many thousands of Jews from the Warthegau to the General Government.2 By early 1942, about 2.3 Million Jews were living in the General Government.3
3. The freedom of movement of the Polish Jews was restricted, as more and more were forced into ghettos set up by the Nazis from 1940 onwards. Living conditions in the ghettos deteriorated rapidly. Local Nazi officials failed to provide sufficient food, heating materials and other vital resources. However, the long-term aim of Nazi policy at this time concerning the Jews was not yet extermination, but forced deportation. Thus, in early summer 1940, after the defeat of France, the Nazi leadership began seriously discussing the transportation of all European Jews to the French island of Madagascar.4
4. The German invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 marked a watershed. The mass murder of Soviet citizens in general, and Jews in particular, had been decided upon before the invasion.5 Specially formed task forces (Einsatzgruppen) immediately followed the army into newly conquered Soviet territory and soon started to kill all Soviet Jews, without consideration of age or sex. One of these task forces reported on 15 October 1941 that it had already killed 118,430 Jews since late June 1941.6 While the task forces   executed Jews living on former Soviet territory, Nazi officials searched for ways to extend the murderous programme to Jews living in the General Government. Probably sometime in autumn 1941, the former Gauleiter of Vienna and SS and Police leader in Lublin, Odilo Globocnik, was charged by Heinrich Himmler with the extermination of Jews living in the General Government.7
5. In late 1939, the Nazis, acting on a specific written order signed by Hitler, had started the extermination of the mentally and physically handicapped, the so-called 'euthanasia' programme. By August 1941, over 70,000 people had been murdered in several designated asylums all over Germany. Most of the victims were gassed. Once the Nazis had decided to exterminate the Jews, the individuals involved in operating the 'euthanasia' programme were transferred to the east.8 Their technical expertise in mass murder was required for the construction and running of extermination centres set up in order to kill the Jews. An extermination centre was established at Chelmno, in the Warthegau, where an SS unit under Herbert Lange, who had been in charge of the 'euthanasia' gas vans in Germany in 1940, began gassing Jews in December 1941.9
6. In the General Government, a camp was set up in the small town of Belzec (south-east of Lublin) in the most eastern corner of the General Government. Construction started in November 1941, and in December 1941, Christian Wirth, a former senior member of the   'euthanasia' programme, arrived in Belzec to take up his position as camp commander. Gas chambers were built, connected to an armoured car engine which was set up outside the gas chambers. The carbon monoxide fumes were used to murder the victims in the gas chambers. In March 1942, the first Polish Jews from the General Government, were transported to Belzec by train, and murdered.10 To increase the capacity for murder, and to shorten the length of the transports, two further death camps were set up in the General Government: the first gassings in Sobibor (east of Lublin) took place some-time in April or May 1942, while killings in Treblinka (north of Lublin) started in July 1942.11
7. This operation was officially terminated in October 1943, and by November 1943, the three camps had been dismantled. According to Professor Raul Hilberg, around 1.5 million Jews were gassed in Belzec, Treblinka and Sobibor. . Probably more than 90% of the victims came from the General Government, while the others came from territory as far away as Holland, Macedonia and France.12 Tens of thousands more Polish Jews were shot by German police officers, organised in so-called police battalions.13 Himmler congratulated Globocnik for his part in organising the genocide in the General Government. On 30 November 1943, Himmler wrote to him:  
I would like to express to you my thanks and appreciation for the great and unique service which you have performed for the whole German people by carrying out the 'Reinhard Action'.14
8. These events have been established by exhaustive archival research, and are not disputed by serious historians.

Notes

1. J. Noakes, G. Pridham (eds.), Nazism 1919-1945, Vol. 3 (Exeter, 1988), pp. 922-957, C. Browning, 'Nazi Resettlement Policy and the Search for a Solution to the Jewish Question', in idem., The Path to Genocide (Cambridge, 1992), pp.3-27.
2. G. Aly, 'Endlösung'. Völkverschiebung und der Mord an den europäischen Juden(Frankfurt a.M., 1995).
3. The protocol of the Wannsee conference on 20 January 1942 gives a figure of 2,284,000; reprinted in J. Noakes, G Pridham (eds.), Nazism 1919-1945, Vol. 3 (Exeter, 1988), pp.1127-1134.
4. Noakes and Pridham (eds.), Nazism Vol. 3, pp. 1050-1085; C. Browning, 'Nazi Ghettoization Policy in Poland, 1939-1941', in idem, The Path to Genocide (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 28-58.
5. 'Directives for the behaviour of the troops in russia', reprinted in Noaks and Pridham (eds.) Nazism, Vol. 3, p. 1090.
6. Einsatzgruppe A, Gesamtbericht bis zum 15. Oktober 1941, Anlage 8: 'Übersicht über die Zahl der bisher durchgeführten Exekutionen'; reprinted in Der prozess gegen die Hauptkriegsverbrecher vor dem Internationalen Militärgerichtshof Nürnberg (Nuremberg, 1949), Vol. XXXVII, pp. 670-717 (ND-180-L).
7. J. Noakes, G. Pridham (eds.), Nazism 1919-1945, Vol. 3 (Exeter, 1988), p. 1145; see also D. Pohl, 'Die Ermordung der Juden im Generalgovernement', in U. Herbert (ed.), Nationalsozialistische Vernichtungspolitk 1939-1945. Neue Forschungen und Kontroversen (Frankfurt a.M., 1998), pp. 98-121, here 103; D. Pohl, Von der "Judenpolitik" zum Judenmord (Frnkfurt am Main, 1993), pp.99-101.
8. H. Friedländer, The Origins of Nazi Genocide (Chapel Hill, 1995).
9. M. Burleigh, Death and Deliverance (Cambridge, 1994).
10. E. Kogon et al. (eds.), Nationalsozialistische massentötungen durch Giftgas (Frankfurt a. M., 1983), pp. 151-156, 165-170; Pohl, Von der "Judenpolitik", pp. 105, 113-14.
11. >E. Kogon et al. (eds.), Nationalsozialistische massentötungen, pp. 157-180; F. Golxzewski, 'Polen', in W. Benz (ed.), Dimension des Völkermords (Munich, 1991), pp.411-498, here 463.
12. R. Hilberg, 'Die Aktion Reinhard', in E. Jäckel, J. Rohwer (eds), Der Mord an den Juden im Zweiten Weltkrieg (Stuttgart, 1985), 125-136, here 131.
13. C. Browning, Ordinary Men. Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (New York, 1993).
14. Cited in Noakes and Pridham (eds.), Nazism, Vol. 3 (Exeter, 1988), p. 1169.
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