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Defense Documents

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

Table of Contents

I. Introduction

1.After the Wannsee Conference of 20 January, in the Spring of 1942, the Nazi regime began to implement a programme aimed at the complete physical extermination of European Jewry. The victims were either deported to be murdered in gas-chambers in special extermination camps, or came to their death in other ways - whether by execution or due to the devastating living conditions prevailing during their deportation and in the ghettos and work camps.
2.In order to carry out this mass murder of millions of people, the Nazis set up a complex machinery of destruction characterised by a division of labour. When closely examined, the individual elements of this machinery and the manner in which they where co-ordinated, leave no room for doubt that the murder of these people proceeded in a systematic way. The organisation and extent of the deportations; the "liquidation" of ghettos, the selection of those deemed "fit for work" from those "unfit", the exploitation of those "fit" for work in a programme of forced labour which generally led to total exhaustion and death, the construction of regular "death factories", the removal of the corpses and traces of the extermination process - these are all compatible elements of a system of planned mass murder.
3.This system for the implementation of the death of millions of persons "functioned" in its entirety as of July 1942. It thus took more than one year until the mass murder of Jews - initiated in the occupied Soviet areas in June of 1941, and extended to further areas in East and Southeastern Europe from the Fall of 1941 onwards - was transformed into a programme for the extermination of all European Jews.
4.The following report gives proof to the assertion that the mass murders of hundreds of thousands of Jews between the Summer of 1941 and the Summer of 1942 - which were still restricted to the areas of Eastern and Southeastern Europe - were systematic in character. This is to say, these mass murders followed a unified pattern, were carried out on the basis of central commands, and must be regarded as representing a conscious expression of the policy of the Nazi regime. It will be shown that in this time period (Summer 1941 to Summer 1942) essential elements of the Nazi policy of extermination were developed with the goal of murdering more and more people in ever shorter time intervals. As of the Summer, 1942, these plans were assembled into one extermination plan for all of Europe. This report categorically rejects the notion   that the murder of European Jews in the Second World War was the consequence of a series of isolated murder campaigns occurring without plan in haphazard and differing ways as a result of decisions by subordinate institutions- i.e. murder actions not displaying a common pattern or unified control.
5.The investigation will cover three complexes: a) mass executions in the occupied Soviet Union in the second half of 1941: b) the regional mass murder of the Jewish civilian population outside of the Soviet Union between the Fall of 1941 and Spring of 1942; c) the transformation of these mass murders into a unified deportation and extermination machinery in the area dominated by Germany in the Spring and Summer of 1942.