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Evidence for the Implementation of the Final Solution: Electronic Edition, by Browning, Christopher R.Table of Contents
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5.5 Documentary Evidence concerning Aktion or Einsatz (Operation) Reinhard (alternatively spelled Reinhardt)
The deportation of Jews to and killing of Jews in the camps of Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka, as well as the confiscation of their property, became known as Operation Reinhard, under the command of Odilo Globocnik, the SS and Police Leader in the district of Lublin. The expression Operation Reinhard appears in only a few German documents. So little documentary evidence explicitly dealing with Operation Reinhard survived because it was intentionally and systematically destroyed in 1943 and 1944. This is clearly revealed in a letter from its director, Odilo Globocnik, to Heinrich Himmler of January 5, 1944. It was a cover letter for Globocnik's submission of a final financial accounting of the program, for which Globocnik wanted a quick confirmation of financial propriety, given the "odium" (Globocnik's own expression) that attached to his past reputation in financial matters. Globocnik gave another reason for urgently concluding an audit of the financial side of Operation Reinhard, namely that its "records must be destroyed as soon as possible, after the documents of all other work in this matter have already been destroyed."154
An early document mentioning "Einsatz Reinhard" dates from July 18, 1942. It is a form on which the personnel specially authorized "for the carrying-out of the work of the Jewish resettlement within the framework of 'Operation Reinhard' with the SS and Police Leader in the Lublin district" acknowledged having been oriented to specific rules of secrecy by SS-Hauptsturmführer Höfle on Globocnik's staff. They were forbidden to make any communication, verbal or oral, concerning the "Jewish resettlement" (Judenumsiedlung) under any circumstances to anyone outside of Operation Reinhard. Moreover, there was "an explicit prohibition against photography in the camps of 'Operation Reinard.'"155
One surviving file of Aktion Reinhard documents (partially burned) concerns the camp personnel at Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka.156 Two letters date from April 13, 1943. The first of these, addressed to SS-Obersturmführer Kuno Ther of the SS Central Office for Personnel, proposed promotions of the officers and men of Aktion Reinhard. It noted: "The Reichsführer-SS [Himmler] had approved in principle the promotion of the most deserving officers and men after his visit to the Sobibor camp." It identified Christian Wirth as Inspector and Gottlieb Hering, Franz Reichsleitner, and Franz Stangl as "camp commanders." (Lagerführer) The remaining non-commissioned officers on the list "had been employed in Aktion 'Reinhard' since the beginning and had proven themselves in the best possible manner."157
A second letter of the same date, from Globocnik to Gruppenführer von Herff of the SS Central Officer for Personnel of the same day and sent by courier, was slightly rephrased. It did not mention Himmler's visit to Sobibor specifically but stated that Himmler "on the occasion of his visit in March had visited installations of Aktion 'Reinhard'" and approved promotions. The enclosed promotion list was for "members of the SS-Special Commando 'Einsatz Reinhard'."158 Subsequent correspondence in the file concerning the recommended promotions of Aktion Reinhard personnel confirmed Himmler's visit and inspection of Sobibor but dated it precisely to February 12, 1943.159
On October 27, 1943, Globocnik confirmed to Herff in the SS Central Office for Personnel that included on his staff of 434 men were 92 men "from the Führer's Chancellery for the carrying out of Aktion Reinhard."160 These were the men who formerly staffed the institutes of the "euthanasia" program for killing mentally- and physically handicapped Germans and were subsequently assigned to the camps of Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka, where they could continue to use their expertise in gassing.
Another surviving file of documents that mention Aktion Reinhard concern the audit of Operation Reinhard following Globocnik's transfer from the General Government to Triest in the fall of 1943. On September 22, 1943, Himmler wrote to Oswald Pohl, head of the Economic and Administrative Main Office of the SS, and Globocnik that, in view of Globocnik's transfer, the latter should turn over an audit of the "'Reinhard' account" (Konto 'Reinhard') to Pohl.161 On November 4, 1943, Globocnik wrote Himmler from Triest: "As of October 19, 1943, I have terminated Aktion Reinhardt, which I directed in the General Government, and dissolved all camps."162 It is only at this point in the fall of 1943 that the alternative spelling of "Reinhardt" rather than "Reinhard" first appeared in the documents.163
On January 5, 1944, Globocnik submitted his final report on the "economic part of Aktion Reinhardt." (Wirtschaftlicher Teil der Aktion Reinhardt) This report made clear that alongside the seizure and utilization of Jewish property, Aktion Reinhardt also dealt with "the evacuation itself" (die Aussiedlung selbst) and "the utilization of labor." (die Verwertung der Arbeitskraft) In a brief section of the report devoted to the evacuation, Globocnik reported that the "installations" (Einrichtungen) created for the operation had been "entirely cleared away." (zur Gänze weggeräumt) Moreover, "for purposes of surveillance a small farmstead had been founded in each camp," and the occupants had to be paid continuously to maintain the farmsteads. Concerning the utilization of labor, Globocnik noted that he had had a workforce of some 52,000 working in 18 enterprises, but on November 3, 1943, all the manpower had been withdrawn from the work camps, and the factories had been idled.164 (In this regard it should be noted that on November 3-4, 1943, some 42,000 Jews in the work camps of Lublin, Trawniki, and Poniatowa were shot in an SS killed action code-named "Fall Harvest" or Erntefest.) Among the recipients of the Jewish property collected during Operation Reinhard were the Ministry of Economics and Reichsbank as well as the Ministry of Finance.
Several conclusions can be drawn from this miniscule remnant of Operation Reinhard documents. Operation Reinhard was directed by Odilo Globocnik, the SS and Police Leader of Lublin, and the SS "special commando" of Operation Reinhard was made up of personnel who staffed the death camps of Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka and who had earlier worked in the gassing institutes of the "euthanasia" program in Germany. The deportation of Jews to and the gassing of Jews in these camps was the central purpose of Operation Reinhard, and every effort was made to erase all physical traces of the three camps. The exploitation of Jewish labor and property were collateral aspects of Operation Reinhard, and the Finance Ministry was only one of a number of recipients of Jewish property. Staatssekretär Fritz Reinhardt of the Finance Ministry is not mentioned in any of the documents, and the spelling of Operation Reinhardt with a "t" as in his name begins only in late 1943. The notion that Operation Reinhard was a program for collecting and exploiting Jewish property and was named after the state secretary of the Finance Ministry, Fritz Reinhardt, is farfetched and finds no support in the surviving documents. Nothing in the surviving documents, however, explicitly indicates that Operation Reinhard was named for the assassinated Reinhard Heydrich.
154. Nürnberg Document 4024-PS, Globocnik to Himmler, 5.1.44, printed in IMT, v. 34, pp. 70-71. (Belege baldigst vernichtet werden müssen, nachdem von allen anderen Arbeiten in dieser Sache die Unterlagen schon vernichtet sind.)
155. 'Einsatz Reinhard' secrecy pledge, 18.7.42, printed in: Faschismus--Getto--Massenmord: Dokumentation über Ausrottung und Widerstand der Juden in Polen wärend des zweiten Weltkrieges, ed. by Tatiana Berenstein, Artur Eisenbach, Bernard Mark and Adam Rutkowski (East Berlin, ), p. 500. (bei der Durchführung von Arbeiten bei der Judenumsiedlung im Rahmen des "Einsatzes Reinhard" beim SS- und Polizeiführer im Distrikt Lublin... ein ausdrückliches Photografier-Verbot in den Lagern des "Einsatzes Reinhard")
156. This are reproduced in facsimile in: Archives of the Holocaust, vol. 11, Berlin Document Center, ed. by Henry Friedlander (New York, 1992).
157. Archives of the Holocaust, vol. 11, part 2, pp. 333-34, Doc. 429: letter to the SS Central Office for Personnel, 13.4.43, signature burned. (Der Reichsführer-SS hat nach Besichtigung des Lagers Sobibor, einer Beförderung der verdientesten Führer und Männer grundsätzlich zugestimmt. ...sind seit Beginn bei der Aktion "Reinhard" eingesetzt und haben sich bestens bewährt.)
158. Archives of the Holocaust, vol. 11, part 2, pp. 335-7, Doc. 430: Globocnik to Herff, 13.4.43, and promotion list. (anlässlich seines Besuches im März Einrichtungen der Aktion "Reinhard" besucht...Angehörige der SS-Sonderkommando "Einsatz Reinhard")
159. Archives of the Holocaust, vol. 11, part 2, pp. 339-49, Doc. 432-439.
160. Archives of the Holocaust, vol. 11, part 1, p. 260, Doc. 144: Globocnik to Herff, 27.10.43. (von der Kanzlei des Führers zur Durchführung der Aktion Reinhard)
161. Nürnberg Document NO-3034: Himmler to Pohl and Globocnik, 22.9.43.
162. Nürnberg Document 4024-PS, Globocnik to Himmler, 4.11.43, printed in: IMT, v.34, pp. 68-9. (Ich habe mit 19.10.43 die Aktion Reinhardt, die ich im Generalgouvernement geführt habe, abgeschlossen und all Lager aufgelöst.)
163. Himmler adopted the Reinhardt spelling in his letter of November 30, 1942, acknowledging Globocnik's previous letter. IMT, v. 34, pp. 69-70.
164. Nürnberg Document 4024-PS, Globocnik report on the economic aspects of Aktion Reinhardt, printed in: IMT, v. 34, pp. 70-89. (Aus Überwachungsgründen ist in den Lagern je ein kleiner Bauernhof entstanden)
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