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

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<< B. Escalation

C. Camouflage Langauge:

The documents concerning the killing of Jews on occupied Soviet territory contain both open and camouflage language. Often the documents speak frankly of shootings, executions, extermination, liquidation, etc. Elsewhere they use words such as   "special treatment," "evacuation," "deportation," and "resettlement." Many times one or more rationalizations are given to justify the mass killing of Jews as a response to or "reprisal" for some alleged provocation, and sometimes the documents claim that the Jews were "convicted" and the executions were carried out "according to martial law." On other occasions, however, the goal of making these territories "free of Jews" through killing is openly admitted, and Jews are killed for no other reason than being Jewish. The large number of surviving documents for this region allows a more careful examination of this use of language.
The implication that Jews were investigated, convicted, and shot "according to martial law" (standrechtlich) for alleged individual offenses is dispelled by Einsatzgruppe C's own reporting. It noted that by late October 1941, 80,000 persons had been "liquidated." However, only 8,000 of these were persons "who on the basis of investigation could be proven guilty of anti-German or bolshevik activities. The remainder were finished off on the basis of reprisal measures." In the same report, Einsatzgruppe C reported that 75,000 of its 80,000 victims were Jews. Clearly the killing of the vast majority of these 75,000 Jews was not the result of individual offenses that led to investigation, conviction, and execution "according to martial law."58 Moreover, the claim of legal proceedings in connection with shootings was at times clearly formulaic and transparently specious. For instance, Sonderkommando 4a reported shooting 740 people in the first week of November "according to martial law." Included in the list of victims, however, were only three   political functionaries and one saboteur; the rest of the victims were 137 Jews and 599 mentally ill persons.59
As indicated by Einsatzgruppe C, many killings of Jews were explained or justified as "reprisals," that is collective punishment of the Jewish community for some alleged transgression by unidentified individuals. This involved a variety of accusations: refusing to work, incitement and spreading rumours, looting or plundering, supporting the partisans, and sabotage. On other occasions, the shooting of Jews was justified because of insufficient food supplies or because the Jews were deemed a source of infectious disease or were simply too old and unfit for work.60
4.3.4On two occasions in the Einsatzgruppen reports, however, the reasons for executions are spelled out systematically. Among the reasons listed by Einsatzgruppe C was quite simply: "Jews in general."61 (Juden allgemein) Einsatzgruppe A also listed reasons for shooting: alongside participation in the communist party, sedition, partisan activity, and espionage, was quite simply: "Belonging to the Jewish race."62 (Zugehörigkeit zur jüdischen Rasse) In short, Jews were to be killed for being Jewish, whether a pretext was listed or not. And in fact many executions were reported without any alleged justification whatsoever. Jews were killed for whom they were, not for what they had done.
The term "special treatment" (Sonderbehandlung) appears in the Events Reports for the first time in No. 21 of July 13, 1941. The report notes that by July 8 the Einsatzkommando in Vilna had "liquidated" 321 Jews. Furthermore, the report explained how this   was done, namely that 150 Lithuanians were recruited "to take part in the liquidation of the Jews. ...They arrested the Jews and put them into concentration camps where they were subjected the same day to special treatment. (italics mine) This work has now begun, and thus about 500 Jews, saboteurs among them, are liquidated daily."63 Einsatzgruppe B reported in one paragraph that 640 Jews from the Nevel ghetto had been "liquidated." In the very next paragraph it reported that in Janovichi 1,025 Jews "were subjected to special treatment."64 (wurden...sonderbehandelt)
One month later Einsatzgruppe B reported a long list of actions, in which various terms were used interchangeably to indicate killing. In Belowchstchina 272 Jews were "liquidated." (liquidiert) In Mogilev Einsatzkommando 8 and the Order Police "led 113 Jews to liquidation." (brachte 113 Juden zur Liquidierung) In Schidow, 627 Jews were "liquidated. In a further action another 812 male and female persons were subjected to special treatment. Without exception they were racially and mentally inferior elements." (liquidiert. In einer weiteren Aktion wurden noch 812 m"nnliche und weibliche Personen der Sonderbehandlung unterzogen. Es handelte sich durchweg um rassisch und geistig minderwertige Elemente.) In Minsk, Einsatzkommando 8 "executed" (exekutierte) 41 persons, "primarily" (vorwiegend) Jews. In Talka, "222 Jews were led to liquidation." (222 Juden zur Liquidierung gebracht wurden) Then in Marina-Gorka, "996 male and female Jews were subjected to special treatment." (wurden 996 m"nnliche und weibliche Juden der Sonderbehandlung unterzogen) In Borisov 83 Jews were "shot."   (erschossen) In Krupka and Sholpenitsche 912 and 833 Jews respectively were "liquidated." (liquidiert) "The Rayon Krupka can now be considered free of Jews." (Die Rayhon Krupka kann damit als judenfrei angesehen werden.) In Bobruisk Einsatzkommando 8 "executed" (exekutierte) 418 persons, including "rebellious Jews." (widersetzlichen Juden) Then on October 8, 1941, the "total liquidation of the Jews in the ghetto of Vitebsk began. The number of Jews handed over to special treatment came to some 3,000." (der restlosen Liquidierung der im Ghetto in Witebsk befindlichen Juden begonnen. Die Zahl der zur Sonderbehanldung gelangenden Juden beläuft sich auf etwa 3000.) In Ostrovno 169 Jews were "shot" (erschossen), and finally 52 Jews who had fled from Gorodok were "specially treated."65 (sonderbehandelt) A subsequent report stated: "In Vitebsk, the ghetto was evacuated. During this process a total of 4,090 Jews of both sexes were shot."66 (In Witebsk wurde das Ghetto ger"umt, wobei insgesamt 4090 Juden beiderlei Geschlechts erschossen wurden.) In short, the term "special treatment" (and in this case also "evacuation") was often used interchangeably with "liquidated," "executed," and "shot" in the reports, without any serious pretense that it was supposed to camouflage what was happening.
"Resettlement" and "deportation" are also terms the appear in German documents in a similar fashion. For instance, the Gendarmerie district leader of Brest reported: "On October 15 and 16, 1942, the Jewish action was carried out in Brest-Litovsk. Simultaneously the complete resettlement of the Jews in the Kreisgebiet Brest-Litovsk also occurred. In all some 20,000 Jews   have been resettled up until now." Two pages later in the same report, he explained the activities of his police station using different language. "Participation in the action against the Jews in the city and Kreisgebiet Brest-Litovsk since October 15, 1942. Up until now some 20,000 Jews have been shot."67
Einsatzgruppe D reported that it had begun preparations for "the deportation of 12-13,000 Jews, Krimchaks, and Gypsies" in early December 1941.68 In a later document, Einsatzgruppe D noted that "Krimchaks...usually counted as part of the Jewish population." Thus the inclusion of the Krimchaks and Gypsies in the fate of the Jews occasioned no special notice among the population. "Their extermination, together with that of the actual Jews and the Gypsies in the Crimea, was accomplished for the most part by the beginning of December 1941."69
Thus SS documents for internal use openly employed terms like "special treatment," "evacuation," "resettlement," and "deportation" interchangeably with execution, shooting, liquidation, and extermination. In documents for external use, however, such language was often used to camouflage what the SS was doing or intended to do. The most blatant and cynical act of deception and camouflage can be seen by juxtaposing the internal documents of Einsatzgruppe A with its communications to the civil administration in its region in August 1941. On July 27, 1941, the Reichskommissar for the Ostland, Hinrich Lohse, had issued a set of provisional guidelines for the treatment of the Jewish population without either consulting Stahlecker or delineating any role for the SS. Higher SS and Police Leader North, Hans Adolf   Prützmann, urged Stahlecker to meet with Lohse to discuss the matter.70 Stahlecker instead sent Jäger a three-page position page, which Jäger was to transmit to Lohse orally, as they were both in Kovno.71 Stahlecker explained that Lohse's guidelines, providing for ghettoization and forced labor of Jews at the moment and "resettlement" (Umsiedlung) later, were in conflict with the orders that had been given to Einsatzgruppe A. Instead of ghettoization in the cities, Stahlecker sketched out a plan of "Jewish reservation areas" (Judenreservatsräume) in the open spaces, where the Jews would be separated by sex to prevent further procreation. Work shops and factories would eventually be constructed there to exploit Jewish labor. The reservations would also facilitate "the later collective deportation of the Jews to a reservation outside Europe." In a handwritten note at the end, Stahlecker added that the Lohse draft "to a great extent touches on general orders from higher authority to the Security Police that cannot be discussed in writing."72
This scenario of deporting the Jews first to reservations in the open spaces of the Ostland and then later out of Europe was designed only for outside consumption, as Stahlecker's own documents show. In his summary report of October 15, 1941, he wrote: "It was expected from the start that the Jewish problem would not be solved solely through pogroms. On the other hand the goal of security police cleansing work, according to basic orders, was the most complete removal possible of the Jews. Extensive executions in the cities and flat lands were therefore carried out through special units, to whom selected manpower - in Lithuanaia   partisan troops and in Latvia troops of the Latvian auxiliary police - were attached."73 Indeed, the nature of the orders Stahlecker had received from higher authority but could not put in writing are suggested by Jäger's statistics: his unit began the systematic killing of Jewish women and children on August 15, just days after receiving Stahlecker's position paper.74

Notes

58. EM No. 126, 27.10.41; EM No. 128, 3.11.41. (denen aufgrund von Ermittlungen eine deutschfeindliche oder bolschewistische Tätigkeit nachgewiesen werden konnte. Der verbliebende Rest ist aufgrund von Vergeltungsmassnahmen erledigt worden.)
59. EM No. 143, 8.12.41.
60. EM No. 92, 23.9.41; EM 94, 25.9.41; EM No. 195, 24.4.42.
61. EM No. 111, 12.10.41.
62. EM No. 173, 25.2.42.
EM No. 92, 23.9.41.
63. EM No. 21, 13.7.41. (Die litauische Ordnungsdienst...wurden eingewiesen, sich an der Liquidierung der Juden zu beteiligen. Hierfür wurden 150 litauische Beamte abgestellt, die die Juden festnehmen und sich in Konzentrationslager schaffen, wo sie nach am gleichen Tag der Sonderbehandlung unterzogen werden. Diese Arbeit hat jetzt begonnen und so werden laufend täglich nunmehr etwa 500 Juden u.a. Saboteure liquidiert.)
64. EM No. 92, 23.9.41.
65. EM No. 124, 25.10.41.
66. EM No. 148, 19.12.41.
67. Report of the Gendarmerie district leader Brest, 8.11.42, in BA, R 94/7. (Am 15. und 16.10.42 wurde in Brest-Litowsk die Judenaktion durchgeführt. Anschliessend erfolgte auch die restlose Umsiedlung der Juden im Kreisgebiet Brest-Litowsk. Im ganzen sollen bis jetzt etwa 20,000 Juden umgesiedelt worden sein. ...Einsatz bei der Aktion gegen die Juden in der Stadt und im Kreisgebiet Brest-Litowsk vom 15.10.42 ab. Bis jetzt sind etwa 20,000 Juden erschossen worden.)
68. EM No. 157, 19.1.42. (die Umsiedlung der 12-13,000 Juden, Krimtschakes and Zigeuner)
69. Nürnberg Document PS-3943 and NO-5219: Report from the Occupied Eastern Territories, No. 4, 22.5.42. (von den allgemein zu den Juden und den Zigeuner auf den Krim erfolgte im wesentlichen bis Anfang Dezember 1941.)
70. HSSPF Riga to Stahlecker, 5.8.41, copy in: YVA, O-53/144/409-10.
71. Stahlecker to Heydrich, 19.8.41, copy in: YVA, O-53/144/412.
72. Historical State Archives, Riga: Stahlecker draft memo, "Betrifft: Entwurf über die Aufstellung vorläufiger Richlinien für die Behandlung der Juden im Gebiet des Reichskommissariates Ostland," 6.8.41. (des späteren gesammelten Abtransportes in ein aussereuropäisches Judenreservat. ...grundsätzliche, schriftlich nicht zu erörternde Befehle von höherer Stelle an die Sicherheitspolizei erheblich berührt).
73. Stahlecker report, 15.10.41 (Nürnberg Document 180-L, printed in IMT, vol. 27, p. 687). (Es war von vornherein zu erwarten, dass allein durch Progrome [sic] das Judenproblem im Ostlande nicht gelöst werden würde. Andererseits hatte die sicherheitspolizeiliche Säuberungsarbeit gemäss den grundsätzlichen Befehlen eine möglichst umfassende Beseitigung der Juden zum Ziel. Es wurden daher durch Sonderkommandos, denen ausgesuchte Kräfte - in Litauen Partisanentrupps, in Lettland Trupps der lettischen Hilfsoplizei - beigegeben wurden, umfangreiche Exekutionen in den Städten und auf dem flachen Lande durchgeführt).
74. Jager Report, 1.12.41.
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