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Defense Documents

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

Table of Contents
(v) Irving's later repet... >>

(i) Historical Background

1. With the German invasion of Poland and the beginning of the Second World War on 1 September 1939, Nazi policy against the Jews became markedly more radical. Millions of Jews in Poland came under the rule of the 'Third Reich'. Probably around 7,000 of them were killed until the end of 1939. The freedom of movement of the Polish Jews was restricted, as more and more were forced into ghettos set up by the Nazis. The living conditions in the ghettos deteriorated rapidly. Cut off from the outside, the local Nazi officials in charge of the day-to-day running and supplying of the overcrowded ghettos failed to provide sufficient food, heating materials and other vital resources. In May 1941, more than 3,800 Jews died in the Warsaw ghetto alone. German Jews in the first years of the war were also deprived of most of the few rights they still had left: curfews were imposed, their food supplies were restricted and their radios were confiscated. However, the aim of Nazi policy at this time concerning the Jews remained emigration, or forced deportation. Thus, in early summer 1940, after the defeat of France, the Nazi leadership seriously discussed the transportation of all European Jews to French island of Madagascar.1
2. The invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 marks a further watershed in Nazi policies towards the Jews. The mass murder of Soviet citizens in general, and Jews in   particular, had been decided upon before the invasion. On 19 May 1941, the German army was given the order that the fight against the Soviet Union 'requires ruthless and energetic action against Bolshevik agitators, guerillas, saboteurs, and Jews, and the total elimination of all active and passive resistance'.2 Also, four task forces (Einsatzgruppe A, B, C, D) were set up and immediately after the invasion began killing Soviet Jews. Soon, these task-forces were committing mass murder without regard to age or sex. By 15 October 1941, Einsatzgruppe A, which operated in the Baltic states, reported to have executed a total of 118,430 Jews.3 The leader of Einsatzkommando 2, one of the four units making up Einsatzgruppe A, wrote in January 1942: 'The aim which Einsatzkommando 2 held up to itself from the beginning onwards was a radical solution of the Jewish problem by the execution of all Jews'.4 Reports submitted by the task force leaders to Berlin detailed shootings of Jews on a huge scale.
3. As a consequence, the Nazi leaders began to rethink their policy towards German Jews. Emigration abroad was finally forbidden on 23 October 1941. On 1 October 1941, there were still about 164,000 Jews left living in Germany. From 15 September 1941 onwards, they had been forced to wear the yellow star of David on their clothes, to make them immediately identifiable, a measure which according to the Goebbels diaries had been   endorsed by Hitler personally.5 It is in this context that regional Nazi leaders stepped up their efforts to make their regions 'judenfrei' (free of Jews) by deporting Jews to Nazi-controlled territories in the East. The approval apparently came from Hitler himself.
4. On 18 September 1941, Heinrich Himmler informed Arthur Greiser, the Gauleiter of the Warthegau, that the 'Führer wishes that the Old Reich and the protectorate be emptied and freed of Jews from west to east as quickly as possible'. Himmler intended to transport Jews first to the incorporated territories (former parts of Poland), in particular to the Lodz ghetto in the Warthegau. But other destinations further to the east were also decided upon in this period. In particular, the Nazi leadership selected destinations in the so-called Reichskommisariat Ostland, the German-occupied territory which included the Baltic states and parts of 'White Russia', as destinations for Western Jews. On 10 October 1941, Himmler's deputy Reinhard Heydrich announced in Prague that Riga and Minsk were earmarked as destinations for deportations.
5. Similar information was passed on by other Nazi officials at this time. On 11 October 1941, Franz Stahlecker, the commander of Einsatzgruppe A, informed the General Commissioner of Latvia, Otto Drechsler, that a large concentration camp for Jews from the German Reich and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was to be set up near Riga 'at the Führer's wish'.6 Soon the deportations of Jews from the West were under   way. From 15 October 1941, about 20,000 Jews were transported from the German Reich to the Lodz ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland. In November and December 1941, several tens of thousands of Jews were transported East, this time to Nazi-occupied parts of the USSR (e.g. Riga and Minsk).7 While the Jews transported to Lodz and Minsk were initially allowed to live, some Jews on the other transports, for example to Kovno and Riga, were executed by the SS immediately on arrival.8
6. The propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels played an important role in 1941 in accelerating the deportation of Jews living in Berlin. Goebbels, since 1926 Gauleiter of Berlin (in charge of the regional party), pressed ahead with the aim to make his territory 'free of Jews', in particular he claimed because of the symbolic status of Berlin as the capital of Germany. As he stated in his diary on 20 August 1941: 'Berlin must become a city free of Jews. It is infuriating and a scandal that 76,000 Jews can still loiter around in the capital of the German Reich, mostly as parasites'.9 The plan to deport Jews from Berlin had already been discussed at Hitler's lunch table in March 1941, if not earlier.10 In October 1941, this plan became reality, when the first Berlin Jews were transported to the Lodz ghetto.
7. Between 18 October 1941 and 1 November 1941, a total of over 4,000 Berlin Jews were taken to Lodz. In November, the transports to the former Soviet territory began. On 17 November 1941, a transport consisting of 942 Berlin Jews departed for Kovno. On 25 November 1941 2,934 Jews deported from Berlin, as well as Munich and Frankfurt, were shot in Kovno by the Einsatzkommando 3 of the Einsatzgruppe A. On 27 November 1941, another transport left Berlin, this time for Riga, with 1,000 Jews on board the train.11 They arrived on the night of 29-30 November 1941, a few hours before the execution of the Jews living in the Riga ghetto began. This massacre was supervised by Friedrich Jeckeln, who had recently been appointed by Himmler as the Chief of the SS and police in the region (Höhere SS- und Polizeiführer Russland-Nord und Ostland). Before this appointment, Jeckeln had served as Chief of the SS and police in the southern areas of the occupied Soviet territory. In this capacity, he had already organized and participated in various large-scale massacres against Jews in the late summer and autumn of 1941. Jeckeln ordered the shooting of 23,600 Jews in Kamenets-Podolsk and sent two commandos of Police Regiment South to assist Sonderkommando 4a, part of Einsatzgruppe C, in the killing of 33,000 Jews in Kiev in late September 1941. Another of his units executed at least 10,000 Jews on 13 October 1941 in Dniepropetrovsk, and in early November 1941 Jeckeln ordered the murder of some 15,000 Jews in Rovno.12   Himmler officially commended Jeckeln on 31 October 1941: 'I express to you my heartfelt thanks and my most particular recognition for your outstanding activity'.13
8. After his arrival in Riga, Jeckeln ordered the extermination of the inhabitants of the ghetto. The killing started on 30 November 1941, a few miles outside Riga. According to a report compiled by the Reich Security Head Office (RSHA), a total of 10,600 Jews were shot in Riga on 30 November 1941, including the Jews who had just arrived on the transport from Berlin. A similar massacre took place on 8 December 1941. In total, according to statistics provided by Einsatzgruppe A, around 27,800 Jews were killed in Riga in these acts of mass murder. According to another RSHA report, only 2,600 Jews survived these two massacres in Riga.14
9. The Jews transported to Riga from Berlin were the first to be killed on the morning of 30 November 1941.15 A German court described in detail in 1973 how the Jews from Berlin and Riga were murdered. They had to strip to their underwear and walk in groups of ten towards ditches which had been prepared for their bodies.
In the ditches, the Jews had to lie down next to one another with their faces downturned. They were killed at close range...by being shot in the back of the neck by Russian machine pistols which had been set to fire individual shots. The victims who came after them had to use the   space available and...lie on top of those who had just been shot. The old, children,, and those who had difficulty in walking, were led to the ditches by the stronger Jews, placed by them on top of the corpses, and shot by the marksmen who were standing on the dead in the big ditch. In this way the ditches gradually filled up.16


1. J. Noakes, G. Pridham (eds.), Nazism 1919-1945, Vol. 3 (Exeter, 1988), pp. 922-957, 1049-1085; U. Adam, Judenpolitik im Dritten Reich (Düsseldorf, 1972), pp. 247-272; C. Browning, 'Nazi Ghettoization Policy in Poland, 1939-1941', in idem., The Path to Genocide (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 28-58; 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 99.
2. 'Directives for the behaviour of the troops in Russia', reprinted in Noakes, Pridham (eds.), Nazism, Vol.3, p. 1090.
3. 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 (Nürnberg, 1949),Vol. 37, pp. 670-717 (ND-180-L).
4. 'Das Ziel, das dem Einsatzkommando 2 von Anfang an vorschwebte, war eine radikale Lösung des Judenproblems durch die Exekution aller Juden'; Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Fb 101/29; reprinted in H.H. Wilhelm, 'Die Einsatzgruppe A der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD 1941/42 - eine exemplarische Studie', in H. Krausnick, H.H. Wilhelm, Die Truppe des Weltanschauungskrieges (Stuttgart, 1981), pp. 281-636, here 534.
5. E. Fröhlich (ed.), Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, Teil II, Vol. 1 (Munich, 1996), entry for 20.8.1941, p. 19; Noakes, Pridham (eds.), Nazism, pp. 549, 1107-1114.
6. Himmler to Greiser, 18 Sept. 1941 in Institut für Zeitgeschichte, MA 3/9, folder 94, cited in Broszat, 'Hitler und die Genesis der Endlösung', Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 1977, pp. 739-75, here p. 750; Notizen aus der Besprechung am 10. 10. 1941 über die Lösung der Judenfrage, in Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine, Paris, Dokumente des Eichmann-Prozesses, Police d'Israel, 1193, cited in H. Safrian, Die Eichmann-Männer (Vienna, 1993), p. 124; Aktennotiz Dr. Drechsler, 20. 10. 1941, in YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York, Occ. E 3-29, also cited in Safrian, p. 134.
7. Noakes, Pridham (eds.), Nazism, p. 1114.
8. Christian Gerlach, Krieg, Ernährung, Völkermord (Hamburg, 1998), pp. 96-98.
9. 'Berlin muß eine judenreine Stadt werden. Es ist empörend und ein Skandal, daß in der Haupstadt des Deutschen Reiches sich 76 000 Juden, zum größten Teil als Parasiten, herumtreiben können'; cited in Fröhlich (ed.), Tagebücher, Teil II, Vol. 1, p. 19; capital letters in the original.
10. IfZ, MA 423: Notiz vom 21.3.1941; cited in W. Benz (ed.), Die Juden in Deutschland (Munich, 1989), p. 639; also disclosed by Irving in his Third Supplemental List of Documents, 51(A).
11. For the deportation figures, see W. Gruner, Judenverfolgung in Berlin 1933-1945 (Berlin, 1996), p. 98, table 5: Deportationen aus Berlin nach Polen und ins Baltikum. For the killings of Berlin Jews in Kovno, see Ernst Klee, Willi Dressen, Volker Riess (eds.), 'Schöne Zeiten'. Judenmord aus Sicht der Täter und Gaffer (Frankfurt am Main, 1988), pp. 52-62, citing: Der Befehlshaber der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD, Einsatzkommando 3 (Jäger), Gesamtaufstellung der im Bereich des EK. 3 bis zum 1. Dez. 1941 durchgeführten Exekutionen.
12. Chief of the Security Police and Security Service, Operational Situation Reports USSR/80, 11 Sept. 1941, USSR/101, 2 Oct. 1941, USSR/135, 19 Nov. 1941, USSR/143, 8Dec. 1941, in Y. Arad, S. Krakowski, S. Spector (eds.), The Einsatzgruppen Reports (New York, 1989), pp. 128-9, 168, 237-42, 251-53. See also Hilberg, Die Vernichtung der europäischen Juden, Vol. 2 (Frankfurt am Main, 1990), pp. 311-2.
13. 'Für ihre ausgezeichnete Tätigkeit spreche ich Ihnen meinen herzlichen Dank und meine ganz besondere Anerkennung aus'; RFSS an Jeckeln, 31.10.1941, DC Jeckeln; cited in Ruth Bettina Birn, Die Höheren SS- und Polizeiführer (Düsseldorf, 1986), p. 393, fn. 4
14. Chief of the Security Police and Security Service, Operational Situation Reports USSR/156 (16 Jan. 1942) and USSRJ155 (11 Jan. 1942), both reprorted in Arad et al, The Einsatzgruppen Reports, pp. 279-83, 276-78. Undatierter Geheimbericht der Bins atzgruppe A, in Der Prozess gegen die Hauptkriegsverbrecher vor dem Internationalen Militärgerichtshof, Vol. XXX, pp. 71-80, ND 2273-PS, also in BA Berlin, R70 SU/15.
15. Fleming, Hitler, pp. 89-92.
16. 'In den Gruben mußten sich die Juden mit dem Gesicht nach unten nebeneinander hinlegen. Aus kurzer Entfernung... wurden sie durch Genickschüsse aus russischen Maschinenpistolen, die auf Einzelfeuer gesteilt worden waren, getötet. Die nachfolgenden Opfer mußten sich unter Ausnutzung des vorhandenen Raurnes... auf die soeben vor ihnen Erschossenen legen. Gehbehinderte, Alte und Kinder wurden von den kräftigeren Juden in die Gruben geführt, von ihnen auf die Leichen gelegt und von den Schützen, die in der großen Grube auf den Getöteten standen, erschossen. Auf these Weise füllten sich die Gruben nach und nach'; IfZ Gh 02 47/3, Urteil des Schwurgerichts Hamburg in der Strafsache gegen J. und andere (50), 9/72, vom 23. 2. 1973.
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