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Defense Documents

Evidence for the Implementation of the Final Solution: Electronic Edition, by Browning, Christopher R.

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<< A. Scale of killingD. Implications >>

B. Escalation:

The categories of Jews targeted for killing by the Germans steadily expanded. There is no surviving copy of pre-invasion orders to the Einsatzgruppen concerning the killing of Jews. The most specific document in this regard is a summary "in compressed form" (in gedrängter Form) of pre-invasion instructions to the Einsatzgruppen that Heydrich passed on to the Higher SS and Police Leaders of July 2, 1941. According to Heydrich, the Einsatzgruppen had been instructed "to execute" (zu exekutieren) communist functionaries, "Jews in party and state positions" (Juden in Partei- und Staatsstellungen), and "other radical elements (saboteurs, propagandists, snipers, assassins, agitators, etc." They were also instructed to "promote" (fördern) pogroms, euphemistically dubbed "self-cleansing attempts" (Selbstreinigungsversuchen), by local anti-Jewish elements but "without trace" (spurenlos) of German involvement. Finally, Heydrich noted that Himmler had explicitly ordered that he be kept   continuously and fully informed of the activities of the Einsatzgruppen.30 On July 17, 1941, Heydrich issued another written order for the execution of all Jews found in German POW camps.31
From the very beginning it was clear these instructions did not limit the shooting of Jews to those strictly in "party and state positions" but rather were understood and interpreted broadly to encompass the shooting of large numbers of adult male Jews. Moreover, this interpretation was immediately approved by Himmler and Heydrich. On June 24, 25, and 27, the Security Police in Tilsit organized three mass executions totalling 526 victims who were "primarily Jews." (vorwiegend Juden) The reason given was that the Jewish population had supported the Red Army, and that in two incidents four Germans had been shot at from behind. In one execution every male Jew in the town of Krottingen was shot, and "only Jewish women and children were left." (nur jüdischen Frauen und Kinder verblieben sind) Further executions were carried out in Augustowo. "The Reichsführer-SS [Himmler] and the Gruppenführer [Heydrich], who by coincidence were present there, had themselves briefed on the measures implemented by the Tilsit Security Police and approved them completely."32 By early July the Tilsit Security Police and its subordinate border police stations reported shooting a total of 1,743 people, and one week later this figure had increased to 3,302.33
Numerous Einsatzgruppen reports of July indicate that adult male Jews, and particularly professionals and community leaders, were targeted. For example, for Einsatzgruppe C: "Leaders of   Jewish intelligentsia (in particular teachers, lawyers, Soviet officials) liquidated."34 For Einsatzgruppe A: "Actions against the Jews are going on in an ever-increasing number. ...The Latvians drive the Jewish families out of town, while they arrest the men. ...The arrested Jewish men are shot without delay and interred in previously prepared graves."35 And for Einsatzgruppe B: "In Minsk, the entire Jewish intelligentsia has been liquidated (teachers, professors, lawyers, etc. except medical personnel)."36 And: "The emphasis of the operational activity was directed first of all against the Jewish intelligentsia."37 As noted already, the Tilsit commando killed all the adult male Jews of Krottingen but not the Jewish women and children. Only Einsatzkommando 3, however, gave an exact statistical breakdown between male and female Jewish victims. For the period July 22-August 3, 1941, it reported killing 1,349 male Jews and 172 female Jews.38
The escalation of the killing campaign to include Jewish women and children began in early August 1941, with clear impetus from the top SS leaders. When the 2nd SS Cavalry Regiment was preparing to sweep the Pripet Marshes, it received an "explicit order" (ausdrüklicher Befehl des RF-SS) from Himmler on August 1, 1941: "All Jews must be shot. Drive the female Jews into the swamp."39 The reply of SS-Sturmbannführer Magill demonstrated that he fully understood the purpose of Himmler's order, namely the killing of Jewish women and children through drowning, and he explained the inadequacy of the method: "Driving women and children into the swamps did not have the intended success,   because the swamps were not so deep that a sinking under could occur."40
The War Diary of Police Battalion 322 shows a similar transition. In early August its third company carried out executions of all adult male Jews but still spared Jewish women and children on its march from Bialystok to Minsk. Then the chief of the Order Police met with Higher SS and Police Leader von dem Bach-Zelewski in Minsk on August 29, and the following day Police Battalion 322 was assigned to a "thorough Jewish action" (gründliche Judenaktion) or roundup in the Minsk. On September 1 third company took part in the execution of the Jews who had been seized, including 64 Jewish women. The inclusion of Jewish women was justified by their alleged failure to wear the Jewish star. By early October the Battalion was shooting Jews "of both sexes" (beiderlei Geschlechts) without providing any explanation or rationalization.41
Once again the detailed statistics of Jäger's Einsatzkommando provide the clearest evidence of the transition. On August 6, 1941, Jäger was informed by Stahlecker that the latter had received "general orders from above that cannot be discussed in writing."42 Beginning on August 15, 1941, Jäger's statistics demonstrate a sharp increase in the number of Jews being shot and the inclusion of large numbers of Jewish women and children.43
Beginning in late September, the killing campaign escalated once again when entire communities of Jews (with the exception of indispensable skilled workers) were killed in so-called "large-scale actions." (Grossaktionen) On September 19, following a   decision "to liquidate the Jews of Zhitomir definitively and radically," the ghetto was emptied and 3,145 Jews were shot. The massacre of over 33,000 Jews in Kiev followed on September 29-30.44 "On November 6 and 7, 1941, the action against Jews that had been prepared for some time was carried out in Rovno, where about 15,000 Jews were shot."45 Beginning on November 30, 1941, the Higher SS and Police Leader North reduced the Jewish population of the Riga ghetto from 29,500 to 2,600.46 In December Einsatzgruppe B reported the elimination of the Bobruisk and Vitebsk ghettos through the shooting of 5,281 and 4,090 Jews respectively.47 In early December 1941 Einsatzgruppe D noted that some 10,000 Jews lived in Simpferpol; two months later, it noted that almost 10,000 Jews had been executed there.48 Such actions aiming at total extermination of the Jewish population were not limited to large cities. Following killing actions in smaller cities and rural areas, entire towns and then even entire regions were repeatedly proclaimed "free of Jews."49
In early 1942, Heydrich reported: "While the Jewish question in the Ostland (by which he presumably meant the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia) can be seen as practically solved and cleansed, progress continues to be made on the clarification of this problem on other occupied territories in the east."50 Outside the Baltic the pace of killing slowed temporarily in the winter of 1941-42 for two reasons. As SS-Sturmbannführer Hofmann, head of the Security Service in Minsk, explained to a meeting of officials from the civil administration:  
At present a complete liquidation of the Jews is not possible due to the frost, because the ground is too frozen to dig pits which would then be available as mass graves for the Jews. A complete eradication of the Jews was also not possible, because workers were still needed from among the ranks of the Jews.
Nonetheless, Hofmann assured his listeners that "in the spring large-scale executioners would be initiated again."51
With the warming weather in the spring of 1942, large-scale killing did indeed begin again. On March 2-3, 1942, 5,721 Jews were executed in Minsk, Vileyka, and Baranovichi, and later in the month 15,000 Jews were killed in Chevron.52 As noted from the Kube's report of July 31, 1942, on the killing of 55,000 Jews in six weeks in the Minsk region, and "Report No.51 for the Führer" on the execution of 363,211 Jews in the Ukraine and Bialystok in the four months of August through November, the killing was particularly intense in the summer and fall of 1942.
At this point, even the Jewish skilled workers important to the German war economy were no longer spared, as can be seen from documentation relating to the killing of the Jews in the region of Brest-Litovsk in the fall of 1942. Informed of the impending "overall resettlement of the Jews" (generelle Umsiedlung der Juden), the SS and Polizeistandortführer in Brest-Litovsk, Friedrich Wilhelm Rohde, pleaded: "Insofar as the Jewish question is solved in Brest, I foresee severe economic damage resulting from the lack of labor." He was supported by the local commissioner (Gebietskommissar) Franz Burat: "Although the total   resettlement of the Jews from the Kreisgebiet is desirable from the political standpoint, from the standpoint of labor mobilization, I must plead unconditionally for leaving the most needed artisans and manpower."53
These appeals were in vain. On October 15-16, 1942, the 20,000 Jews of Brest, including 9,000 workers, were shot.54 The war diary and reports of Police Regiment 15 show that the Jews working in camps and on state farms in the region were also executed.55 The totality with which Jewish labor was executed in this region can be seen from a subsequent report of the military armaments commando: "Then, in October 1942, there were large-scale Jewish evacuations in Volhynia as a result of which every Jew was removed from all the factories, and the factories came to a complete standstill for a shorter or longer time, or production dwindled to a mere fraction."56
In late July 1942 Himmler wrote emphatically: "The occupied eastern territories will be free of Jews. The carrying out of this very difficult order has been placed on my shoulders by the Führer. No one can take this responsibility from me."57 In the end, this included even the skilled Jewish workers providing irreplaceable manpower for the German war economy.


30. Heydrich to Jeckeln, von dem Back-Zelewski, Prützmann, and Korsemann, 2.7.41, SAM, 500-1-25, printed in: Peter Klein, ed., Die Einsatzgruppen in der besetzten Sowjetunion 1941.1942 (Berlin, 1997), pp. 323-28. [sonstigen radikalen Elemente (Saboteure, Propagandeure, Heckenschützen, Attentäter, Hetzer, usw).]
31. Appendix 2 to Order No. 8: Guidelines for the commandos of the Security Police assigned to the POW camps, 17.7.41, in Moscow Special Archives, 500-1-25, printed in: Klein, Die Einsatzgruppen, pp. 331-40.
32. Staatspolizeistelle Tilsit to Müller (RSHA IV A 1), 1.7.41, SAM, 500-1-758, printed in: Klein, Die Einsatzgruppen, pp. 372-75. (Der Reichsführer-SS und der Gruppenführer, die dort zufällig anwesend waren, liessen sich über die von der Staatzpolizeistelle Tilsit eingeleiteten Massnahmen unterrichten and billigten diese in vollem Umfange.)
33. EM No.19, 11.7.41.
34. EM No.13, 5.7.41. [Führer der jüdischen Intelligenz (insbesondere Lehrer, Rechtsanwälte, Sowjetbeamte) liquidiert.]
35. EM No.24, 16.7.41. (Die Aktionen gegen die Juden gehen stärker weiter. ...Die jüdischen Familien werden durch die Letten aus der Stadt vertrieben, wärend sie die Männer festsetzen. ...Die festgesetzten männlichen Juden werden kurzerhand erschossen und in vorbereiteten Gräbern begraben.)
36. EM No.32, 24.7.41. [In Minsk ist nunmehr die gesamte jüdische Intelligenzschicht (Lehrer, Professoren, Rechtsanwälte usw mit Ansnahme der Medizinen) liquidiert worden.]
37. EM No.43, 5.8.41. (Das Schwergewichte der exekutiven Tätigkeit richtete sich zunächst gegen die jüdische Intelligenz.)
38. EM No. 54, 16.8.41.
39. Himmler order to SS Calvary Regiment, 1.8.41, in: Bundesarachiv-Militärarchiv Freiburg, RS 3-8/36. (Sämtliche Juden müssen erschossen werden. Judenweiber in die jüdische Intelligenz.)
40. Magill report on the Pripet action, 12.8.41, in: Prague Military Archives, Kommandostab des RFSS. (Weiber und Kinder in die Sümpfe zu treiben, hatte nichte den Erfolg, den er haben sollte, denn die Sümpfe waren nicht so tief, dass ein Einsinken erfolgen konnte.)
41. War Diary of Police Battalion 322, entries of 9, 15, and 29-31.8.41; 1.9.41; 1-3.10.41, in Military Archive Prague.
42. Hand-written note by Stahlecker to Jäger on his "draft over the issuing of temporary guidelines for the treatment of Jews in the territory of the Reichskommissariat Ostland," 6.8.41, in: Historical State Archives, Riga, (grundsätzliche, schriftlich nicht zu erörternde Befehle von höherer Stelle)
43. Jäger Report, 1.12.41
44. For Zhitomir on September 19, 1941: EM No. 106, 7.10.41. For Kiev on September 29-30: EM No. 101, 2.10.41; EM No. 106, 7.10.41. (die Judenschaft von Shitomer endgültig und radikal zu liquidieren)
45. EM No. 143, 8.12.41. (Am 6. und 7. November wurde die schon länger beplant [sic] gewesene Judenaktion in Rowno durchgefü, bei der rund 15,000 Juden erschossen werden konnten.)
46. EM No .155, 11.1.42; EM No.156, 16.1.42.
47. EM No. 148, 19.12.41.
48. EM No. 145, 12.12.41; EM No. 170, 18.2.42.
49. EM No. 92, 23.9.41; EM No. 101, 2.10.41; EM No. 124, 25.10.41; EM No. 129, 5.11.41; EM No. 148, 19.12.41; EM No. 150, 2.1.42; EM No. 189, 3.4.42.
50. Activity and Situation Report No. 10, for February 1942.
51. Meeting of department and section heads, Minsk, 29.1.42, in: Central State Archives, Minsk, 1370-1-53. (Eine restlose Liquidierung der Juden sei zur Zeit wegen des Frostes nicht möglich, da die Erde zu stark gefroren sei, um Gruben ausheben zu können, die dann als Massengräber für die Juden zur Verfügung stehen. Eine völlige Ausmerzung der Juden sei auch deshalb nicht möglich, weil aus den Reihen der Juden immer noch Arbeitskräfte benötigt werden. ...Im Frühjahr werde jedoch wieder mit starken Exekutionen begonnen werden.) According the the Langenscheidts dictionary, "ausmerzen" has a literal meaning (in the gardening context) of to "cull, weed out" and figurative meanings of to "eradicate, wipe out," "eliminate," "expunge, strikeout," and "cast off, reject." In this context, clearly "Ausmerzung" is synonomous with "Liquidierung" or "liquidation" and hence should be translated as "eradication" or "elimination."
52. EM No. 178, 9.3.42; EM No. 186, 27.3.42.
53. Memo of Stadtkommissar Brest, 4.9.42, in BA, R 6/243; Report of SS- and Standortführer Brest, 15.9.42, in BA, R 94/6 (Ich sehe, sofern in Brest die Judenfrage einmal gelöst wird, schwere wirtschaftliche Schäden infolge Mangel an Arbeitskräften eintreten.); Report of Gebietskommissar Brest, 9.10.42. in BA, R 94/7. (Obwohl vom politischen Standpunkt aus die restlose Aussiedlung der Juden aus dem Kriegsgebiet erwünscht ist, muss ich vom Standpunkt des Arbeitseinsatzes aus mich unbedingt für die Belassung der notwendigsten Handwerker und Arbeitskräfte einsetzen.)
54. Report of Gendarmerie District Leader Brest, 8.11.42, in BA, R 94/7. Report of district labor office in Brest, 27.10.41, in BA, R 94/7.
55. Activity and Situation Report 10th company, Police Regiment 15, 26.10.42, in: Central State Archives Moscow, 7021-148-2.
56. Monthly report of the military armaments commando, Volhynia-Podolia, October 1942, in: Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv Freiburg, RW 30/15. (Im Oktober 1942 fanden nun in Wolhynien die grossen Judenevakuierungen statt, durch die aus allen Betrieben die Juden restlos entfernt wurden, sodass die Betriebe auf kürzere oder längere Zeit vollkommen zum Erliegen kamen, bezw. die Fertigung bis auf Bruchteile zusammenschrumpfte.)
57. Nürnberg Document NO-626: Himmler to Berger, 28.7.42. (Die besetzten Ostgebiete werden judenfrei. Die Durchführung dieses sehr schweren Befahls [sic] hat der Führer auf meine Schultern gelegt. Die Verantwortung kann mir ohnedies niemand abnehmen.)
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