The Systematic Character of the National Socialist Policy for the Extermination of the Jews: Electronic Edition, by Heinz Peter Longerich

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V. The machinery of mass murder in full operation (1942-1944)

1.As has been stated above, in July 1942 a comprehensive programme to systematically murder the Jews in the areas under German control had been implemented.
2.The organisation of the individual elements of this programme into a system designed for complete extermination is indisputable. It has been exhaustively described in the relevant scholarly literature, summarised for example in comprehensive texts such as those written by Gerald Reitlinger328, Raul Hilberg329 or Leni Yahil.330
3.This programme was instituted in the various countries under German control in separate intervals following different tempos: the basic elements however, were always the same. This system can be characterized as follows:
4.The Germans first assured that certain basic preconditions were met before beginning the deportations in the individual countries and areas under their influence. Jews had first been defined, ear-marked, and deprived of their rights and property. Mobility was restricted: they were either forced to live in ghettos (as in Poland) or in specifically designated housing (as in Germany). They were forced to join a designated Jewish organisation which took the responsibility for transmitting the orders of the German authorities to the Jewish population. In Germany, for example, it was the Reich organization of the Jews in Germany (Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland), in France the General association of Jews in France (Union Generale des Israelites de France) and in Belgium the Association of Jews in Belgium (Association des Juifs en Belgique); the Jewish councils (Judenräte) in the Polish ghettos served the same function. In his key book, The Destruction of the European Jews, Raul Hilberg has described in detail the step by step process of the isolation and the deprivation of rights of the Jews in different countries under German control; he details how the Jews came to be placed at the mercy of the German machinery of destruction.
5.When the deportations to the extermination camps began, Jews were assembled and/or arrested and forced to remain in the transit camps or collection points. This was in order to make sure that enough people were available for a transport.   Collection points of this sort were set up in places like the exhibition halls in Cologne, the dance hall "Clou" in Berlin331 or in the theater "Joodsche Schouwburg" in Amsterdam332; larger transit camps were set up, for instance, in Compiegne and Drancy in France333, Westerbork and Vught in the Netherlands334 or in Fossoli de Carpi in Italy.335 These are also described, for instance, in Hilberg`s book and in numerous detailed studies about the fate of the Jews in indiviual countries.336
6.From the collection points and transit camps the Jews were deported in trains to the extermination camps in occupied Poland. The deportation from the individual countries (with the exception of Poland and the USSR) was centrally organized by the Department for Jewish Affairs of the Reich Security Office.337 The death toll during the transports -carried out mostly in freight cars- was so high that the deportation itself can be seen as part of the system of murder.338
7.Jews deemed "fit for work" were as a general rule not murdered immediately but selected either before the deportation, during the course of the deportation (when trains were stopped near labour camps - for instance in Lublin, near Majdanek339 or in Kosel, in Upper Silesia340) or at the final destination, in particular in Auschwitz.341 Jews labelled "fit for work" were usually subjected to heavy and exhausting labour under completely inhumane conditions. Life expectancy for a Jewish prisoner assigned to hard labour was generally only a few weeks, seldom more than a few   months.342 The SS invented the expression "annihilation through labour" (Vernichtung durch Arbeit) for this method of exploiting people to the point of death. "Annihilation through labour", along with murder by execution commandos and in gas chambers became an important element in the comprehensive murder programme of the SS.
8.Those Jews who were not defined as "fit for work" were generally murdered immediately after arrival in the extermination camps. In the following extermination camps Jews were murdered in large numbers in gas chambers:
9.- Auschwitz-Birkenau: here between February, 1942 and January, 1945, between 900,000 and 1 million Jews murdered. They came from the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Slovakia, Germany, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Hungary and Poland. (See details in Jan van Pelts expert report on Auschwitz).
10.- Belzec: here between March, 1942 and December, 1942, 500 to 6000,000 victims from Poland, France, the Netherlands, Germany and Greece were murdered.343
11.-Treblinka: here alone between July 23 and August 28, 1942 at least 245.000 victims from the Warsaw Ghetto were murdered; up to the fall of 1943 altogether more than 800,000 Jews were killed. This included apart from Polish Jews also Jews from the Bialystok area), Slovakia, Greece and Macedonia.344
12.- Sobibor: here between May, 1942 and September, 1943 between 150.000 and 250,000 Jews men from Poland, Slovakia, France, the Netherlands and the Soviet Union were murdered.345
13.- Chelmno: In Chelmno, a station for gas vans, at least 150,000 Jews, mostly Polish Jews from the Warthegau, but also Jews from Germany and the Protectorate were killed between December 1941 and March, 1943.346
14.Further, a gas chamber was built in the concentration camp of Maidanek. Among the approximate 60,000 Jewish victims in this camp, a significant number were murdered by the use of gas.347
15.The murder of the Jews in the occupied Soviet Union followed a different pattern: they were generally not transported to extermination camps but executed or murdered in gas vans.348
16.Those Jews not immediately killed or subjected to forced labour were also mostly victim to the systematic policy of annihilation. Thus for example, in the so-called "Operation Thanksgiving" (Operation Erntefest) on 3 and 4 November 1943 most of the surviving Jews in the district of Lublin were shot in the camps in this district, altogether over 42,000 men.349 Similarly, in the course of the clearing of the ghettos, forced labour camps and concentration camps Jewish prisoners were killed on the spot in a large number of cases.350
17.Further, the efforts of the Nazis to destroy all traces of the extermination programme were systematic. As of the Summer of 1943, the corpses of those murdered in the course of the previous "murder actions" were dug up and burned in a special "action" (Aktion 1005) by the Special Commando of the German police.The camps of "Aktion Reinhard" as well as the extermination camp Chelmno were methodically destroyed. Traces of the extermination process were removed when possible. The complete destruction of the concentration and extermination camps of Majdanek and Auschwitz was averted only because of the unexpectedly rapid advance of Soviet troops.351
18.The systematic character of the Nazi murder of the Jews becomes all the more apparent when it is observed how one country after the other was pulled into the policy of extermination. The first measures affected Slovakia and France.
19.In February, 1942, the Foreign Office requested that the Slovakian government make 20.000 Jewish workers available to the Reich. In March, the Slovakian government declared its willingness, in accord with a further German request, to deport the remaining 70.000 Slovakian Jews.The transports began at the end of March; up to October altogether 57 transports with 58,000 people were deported to Auschwitz and the district of Lublin; from the beginning of June the "not fit to work" prisoners of these transports were murdered directly in the extermination camps.352
20.In France, the preparations for the deportations began in December 1941. At first 1000 Jews were slated for a transport "to the East" as a reprisal for attacks by resistance organisations. At the beginning of March, allready before this first transport had left for Auschwitz at the end of March, the RSHA raised the quota to 5,000 non-French Jews- who were then deported to Auschwitz in June and July.353
21.In June the deportation programme was methodically extended to the entire area under German occupation in the West: On June 11, the RSHA set the quota for deportations for France at 100.000: this figure was modified to 40.000 on 22 June.354 Up to the end of the year 1942 approximately 42.000 people were deported from France.355
22.On 11 June, the deportation quota for the Jews from the Netherlands was fixed, also at 40.000. These deportations began on 15 July.356 The quota set on 11 June, 1941 for Belgium was 10.000. The deportations began on 4 August.357
23.In the Summer of 1942, the "Third Reich" undertook efforts in several countries to further extend the deportations. These efforts concerned first of all Croatia and Rumania, both of which had already initiated relatively radical measures in their anti-semitic policies, so that the implementation of the deportations appeared technically possible.
24.In July 1942, the German Police Attache in Croatia was ordered to convince the Croatian government to prepare for the deportation of Croatian Jews. On 13 August,   the deportations began.358 Similarily in July 1942, the advisor on Jewish affairs at the German legation in Bukarest agreed with acting Prime Minister Antonescu on the deportation of the Rumanian Jews - to begin in September, 1942 This plan, however, was thwarted by the Rumanians.359 In addition, Himmler approached the Finnish Prime Minister Rangell - according to his own testimony - on the topic of the Finnish Jews; Rangell did not respond and the Finnish Jews remained unmolested.360 In September 1942 a basic decision to intensify the deportations and to extend them to all of Europe was made by the German leadership.
25.Already on 24 September Ribbentrop gave the Undersecretary of state in the German Foreign Office, Luther the, order to accelerate the evacuation of the Jews from the different European countries as soon as possible and to approach the Bulgarian, Hungarian, and the Danish governments. In view of the Italian occupation zones in Croatia the position of the Italians was to be carefully explored.361
26.Analogous moves by Germany were made towards Bulgaria, Hungary and Italy in October, 1942. These countries proved not yet ready to comply to the German request. In the case of Denmark, the newly appointed Reich deputy Werner Best did not develop an initiative for deportations. Instead, the German occupation authority undertook an "action" to arrest members of the small Jewish minority in Norway; most of these, however, were successful in escaping to Sweden.362
27.In February, 1943, the Bulgarian Commissar for Jewish affairs Belev and the "advisor for Jewish questions" (Judenberater) at the German embassy, Dannecker, signed an agreement concerning the deportation of 20.000 Jews from the territories in Thrace and Macedonia occupied by Bulgaria; this also included 6 to 8000 people from Bulgaria proper. In fact, in March, 1943, 11.400 Jews living in the Bulgarian zone of occupation in Greece were deported to the Generalgouvernement and murdered there. The Bulgarian government, however, refused to hand over the Bulgarian Jews.363
28.Similarly in February, 1943, Germany prepared for the deportation of Greek Jews. Between March and August, 1943, altogether 45,000 Greek Jews were deported from the areas of German occupation - most of them to Auschwitz.364
29.A further extension of German deportation policy can be ascertained for September and October, 1943. The suggestion of the German Reich deputy in Denmark, Best, to deport the Danish Jews was accepted by Hitler in September. Best's endeavor followed upon his successfully warning the Danish minority of the coming deportation; most were able to escape to Sweden.365
30.After the capitulation of Italy in September and the occupation of the northern half of the country by German troops, the RSHA began in October, 1943 to deport Jews from Italy to Auschwitz.366 Following the Italian capitulation, the Wehrmacht took over the Italian occupation zones in Greece and Albania as well as in Montenegro and the Dodecanese - the eastern Greek islands which had belonged to Italy since 1912. Between March and July, 1944, the Germans were able to arrest Jews living at the most extreme periphery of German control (insofar as the German side could identify them) and deport them to concentration and extermination camps.367
31.The systematic character of the German persecution of the Jews also becomes apparent by virtue of the fact that the German regime attempted to include in the deportations Jews from occupied, allied but also neutral states- those who lived outside of their home countries but within the zone of German control. The governments of Rumania, Croatia and Slovakia had already declared their willingness to accept the deportation of their Jews into the Reich as of November or December of 1941.368 A second phase of such demands came as early as the Summer, 1942; this was directly related to the above-mentioned extension of the German deportation programme.369 The German side applied to the authorities in Bulgaria, Italy and Hungary in this regard - but without success. In 1943 these efforts to further expand the deportations were continued - also in regard to other states.370


328. Reitlinger, Final solution.
329. Hilberg, Destruction (German version: Vernichtung)
330. Yahil, Holocaust.
331. Matzerath, Weg, pp. 536f; Henschel, Arbeit, pp. 84f
332. Moore, Victims, pp. 94ff.
333. Klarsfeld, Vichy.
334. Moore, Victims, pp. 92ff
335. Fargion, Italien.
336. Only a small selection of works can be mentioned here: Belgium: Klarsfeld (ed.), Endlösung; Denmark: Yahil, Rescue; France: Klarsfled, Vichy; Marrus/Paxton, Vichy; Germany: Adler, Verwaltete Mensch; Adam, Judenpolitik; Greece: Fleischer, Griechenland; Mazzower, Greece; Hungary: Braham, Politics; Italy: Fargion, Italien; Zuccotti, Italians; Netherlands: Presser, Destruction; Moore, Victims; Norway: Abrahamsen, Response; Poland: Pohl, Ostgalizien; Arad, Belzec; Gutman, Jews; Slovakia: Büchler, Deportation; Lipscher, Juden; Soviet Union: Robel, Sowjetunion; Spector, Holocaust; Dieckmann, Krieg; Gerlach, Wirschaftsinteressen; Klein (ed.), Einsatzgruppen.
337. Safrian, Eichmann-Männer.
338. Hilberg, Sonderzüge; Adler, Verwaltete Mensch, pp. 431.
339. Büchler, Deportation (for the transports from Slowakia).
340. Konieczny, Zwangsarbeit; Klarsfeld, Vichy (details for the transports from France).
341. Adler et. al. (eds.), Auschwitz.
342. Kaienburg, Vernichtung;; Hilberg, Vernichtung, pp. 994.
343. Arad, Belzec, pp. 68ff, 126f
344. Arad, Belzec, pp. 81ff.
345. Arad, Belzec, pp. 128ff.
346. Kogon et. al. (eds.), Massentötungen, pp. 110ff.
347. Ibid. pp. 241ff.
348. Spector, Holocaust; Robel, Sowjetunion.
349. Grawitz/Scheffler, Spuren.
350. Arad, Belzec, pp. 125ff; Pohl, Ostgalizien, pp. 179ff, pp. 211ff, pp. 246ff.
351. Spector, Aktion 1005; Hilberg, Vernichtung, pp. 1046ff; Kogon et. al. (eds.) Massentötungen, pp. 188ff.
352. Lipscher, Juden, pp. 99ff; Bücher, Deportation.
353. Klarsfeld, Vichy, pp. 42ff.
354. Documented in Klarsfeld, Vichy, pp. 379ff.
355. Klasrfeld, Vichy, p. 474.
356. Moore, Victims, pp. 91ff.
357. Longerich, Politik, 501f.
358. Hilberg, Vernichtung, pp. 761ff
359. Browning, Solution, pp. 115ff; Longerich, Politik, pp. 523f. This is documented in the files of the German Foreign Office: PAA, Inland II g 200.
360. Rautkallio, Finland, pp. 82f.
361. Note Luther for Weizsäcker, 24.9.42, PAA, Inland II g 208; Longerich, Politik, pp. 527f
362. Herbert, Best, pp. 330ff.; Abrahamsen, Response, pp. 104ff.
363. Chary, Bulgaria, pp. 129ff; Hoppe, Bulgarien, pp. 285ff.
364. Hilberg, Vernichtung, pp. 739ff; Fleischer, Griechenland.
365. Yahil, Rescue.
366. Fargion, Italien; Michaelis, Mussolini, pp. 342ff..
367. Fleischer, Griechenland, pp. 260ff.
368. Browning, Solution, pp. 67f.
369. Longerich, Politik, pp. 518f.
370. Ibid., pp. 543ff.
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