Hitler's Role in the Persuection of the Jews by the Nazi Regime: Electronic Version, by Heinz Peter Longerich

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18. HITLER AND THE BEGINNING OF THE SYSTEMATIC MURDER OF EUROPEAN JEWRY IN SPRING, 1942

18.1In the period around the second half of April 1942, the hitherto existing modus operandi of the mass murder of Jews was altered: henceforth, the Jews of Central Europe would no longer be deported to the Eastern-European ghettos nor would the local population who were labelled "not fit for work" be murdered; from now on instead, in the period between April and July a step-by-step European-wide murder program was to be set in motion: Those Jews no longer fit to work would be deported directly to the extermination camps while those who could still work   were to be killed through strenuous work under the most extreme conditions. This programme included the murder of those who had been previously spared, those Central European Jews already deported to the East.
18.2A direct order by Hitler initiating this entire program has not been found. It is however unthinkable that these last steps in the escalation of "Jewish policy" of the "Third Reich" could have taken place without Hitler's express consent. Hitler had expressed himself in the most drastic possible manner on the "solution" to the Jewish question from the beginning of the Russian campaign and would continue to do so until the end of his life.
18.3As shown above, Hitler had been constantly involved with "Jewish policy", had issued the most important orders in this area himself and had even occupied himself with the details. Over and over again, Hitler had personally radicalised the persecution of the Jews or recommended such radicalisation: he had urged the mass executions of Poles and Jews in 1939-40; he had repeatedly pushed forward the deportation plans in the years 1939 to 1941; through his guidelines, he had decisively influenced the ideological war of extermination against the Soviet Union; he had pushed forward the deportation of the Central-European Jews from 1941 on, and by means of various statements after 1941 on he had demanded the "annihilation" of European Jews.
18.4Also in this phase, as in the years between 1933 to 1939, Hitler would sometimes slow down that radicalisation of the anti-Jewish policy which he himself had decisively accelerated; he did this when it came into conflict with other elements of his policy. Thus in the fall of 1939 he stopped the Nisko project and in the spring of 1941 he stopped the further deportations into the Generalgouvernement because they interfered with military campaigns. However, these measures to halt the persecutions were invariably introduced as tactical manoeuvres and were of a provisional nature; they must be seen in the general context of the policy of extermination which was decisively determined by Hitler.
 
18.5As far as terminology is concerned, the concepts of "deportation" (Aussiedlung) or "resettlement" (Umsiedlung) or "evacuation" (Evakuierung) to the East were used in this phase of the policy, just as before: thus the concept of a "territorial final solution", which would occur after the war, "outside of Europe" was still used. Illustrative for this is for instance the entry in Goebbels`s diary for 27 April 1942:
I spoke with the Führer once again in great detail about the Jewish question. His point of view on this problem is unyielding. He wants to push the Jews altogether out of Europe. That is also correct. The Jews have brought so much misfortune to our Continent that the most severe punishment which could be imposed upon them would still be too mild. Himmler is at the moment carrying on the greatest resettlement of Jews from the German cities to the Eastern ghettos.167
18.6One must proceed on the assumption that even those who were involved in mass murder up to the period May-June 1942 believed that the "real" "final solution" would only take place after the end of the war and that the murders taking place before then were only "provisional" measures, "anticipatory" measures to the "final solution". Only in Spring and early Summer of 1942 did the realisation slowly come through that the "final solution" would take place during the war: it finally became clear which means would be chosen to achieve the "final solution".
18.7Even at the end of May 1942, when the preparations for the systematic murder of European Jews in extermination camps were in full swing, Hitler referred in a talk with Goebbels to the old plan to deport Jews to Africa168, according to Goebbels's diaries:  
Thus I plead once again for a more radical Jewish policy, whereby talking to the Führer is like walking through an open door [...] The Germans only ever take part in subversive movements when the Jews seduce them to it. Therefore one must liquidate the Jewish danger, cost what it may [...] Therefore the Führer also does not wish at all for the Jews to be evacuated to Siberia. There, under the harshest living conditions, they would undoubtedly form an element of vitality once more. He would rather settle them in Central Africa. There they live in a climate that would surely not render them strong and capable of resistance. In any case it is the Führer's aim to make Western Europe completely Jew-free. Here they will not be allowed to have any home any more.
To interpret this statement as evidence for a clear intention or a plan of Hitler to deport European Jews to Africa seems rather absurd.
18.8However, even at this stage, only a few weeks before the deportations to extermination camps were being extended to all Districts of the General Gouvernment, to Slowakia and Western Europe, one can not exclude the possibily that Hitler and leading organisors of the extermination programme were talking about "alternatives" to the "final solution", i.e. deporting Jews from countries still not effected by the programme of systematic mass-murder to areas other than occupied Poland and to killing or letting them perish there. These eventual "alternative" considerations were clearly speculative and had nothing to do with the reality of mass murder which was unfolding at the same time. Hitler himself referred here to a wish ("he would rather...") which was completely unrealistic at a time when Central Africa was entirely inaccessable to the Nazi regime. One can interpret his statement as an attempt to camouflage the consequences of the murderous decisions already taken. Even talking to his closest associates Hitler avoided speaking openly on mass killing. That he did not seriously consider stopping the preparations for the deportations to extermination camps is clear from his statement in the last sentence of Goebbels's note that he wanted "in any case" to make "West Europe completely Jew free".
 
18.9Hitler's statements after this point, i.e. from the Summer of 1942 on - about possible "resettlement projects" - are unquestionably diversions meant to deceive his listeners; for example, his remarks at his dinner table on 24 July 1942, when he tried to make his listeners (consisting of personal aids and private guests) believe that the "Führer" had nothing to do with the rumoured murder of the Jews:
After the end of the war, he will rigorously take the standpoint that he will smash to pieces city after city if the dirty Jews don't come out and emigrate to Madagascar or another Jewish national state. [...] When it was reported to him that Lithuania was also free of Jews, that was therefore significant.169
18.10In fact, the plan to deport Jews to Madagascar (occupied by British troops in May), had been officially abandoned in February 1942; according to the files of the Foreign Office, it was Hitler who had taken this decision.170 The fact that Hitler referred in the same statement to the fact that Lithuania had been made "free of Jews" (in fact the vast majority had been murdered, only those forced to work for the Germans had been spared171) gives us a clear idea what the term "emigrate" represented.

Notes

164. 'Meine Prophezeiung wird ihre Erfüllung finden, daß durch diesen Krieg nicht die arische Menschheit vernichtet, sondern der Jude ausgerottet werden wird'. Völkischer Beobachter, 26.2.42, printed in Domarus II, pp. 1844.
165. 'Der Jude muß aus Europa hinaus! Am besten, sie gehen nach Rußland! Ich habe kein Mitleid mit den Juden. Sie werden immer ein Element bleiben, das die Völker gegeneinander hetzt." Jochmann (ed.), Monologe, 27.1.42
166. 'Der Jude wird erkannt werden! Der gleiche Kampf, den Pasteur und Koch haben kämpfen müssen, muß heute von uns geführt wrden. Zahllose Erkrankungen haben die Ursache in einem Bazillus, dem Juden! Japan würde ihn auch bekommen haben, wenn es dem Juden weiter offen gestanden hätte. Wir werden gesunden, wenn wir den Juden eliminieren.' Ibid., 22.2.42.
167. 'Ich spreche mit dem Führer noch einmal ausführlich die Judenfrage durch. Sein Standpunkt diesem Problem gegenüber ist unerbittlich. Er will die Juden absolut aus Europa herausdrängen. Das ist auch richtig so. Die Juden haben unserem Erdteil so viel Leid zugefügt, daß die härteste Strafe, die man über sie verhängen kann, immer noch zu milde ist. Himmler betreibt augenblicklich die große Umsiedlung der Juden aus den deutschen Städten nach den östlichen Ghettos.' Fröhlich (ed.), Tagebücher, 27.4.42.
168. 'Ich plädiere also noch einmal für eine radikalere Judenpolitik, womit ich beim Führer nur offene Türen einrenne [...] Die Deutschen beteiligen sich an subversiven Bewegungen immer nur, wenn die Juden sie dazu verführen. Deshalb muß man die jüdische Gefahr liquidieren, koste es was es wolle [...] Deshalb wünscht der Führer auch gar nicht, daß die Juden nach Sibirien evakuiert werden. Dort unter härtesten Lebensbedingungen würden sie zweifellos wieder ein lebenskräftiges Element darstellen. Er möchte sie lieber nach Zentralafrika ansiedeln. Dort leben sie in einem Klima, das sie gewiß nicht stark und widerstandsfähig macht. Jedefalls ist es das Ziel des Führers, Westeuropa gänzlich judenfrei zu machen. Hier dürfen sie keine Heimstätte mehr haben. Fröhlich (ed.), Tagebücher, 30.5.42.
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