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

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<< 2.6 Police Battalions

2.7 Conclusions

2.7.1From these numerous individual facts the following conclusions can be drawn:
2.7.2For almost all Einsatz or Special Commandos and for a number of Battalions, the mass shooting of Jewish men of draft age - hundreds or thousands of people for each unit - can be documented for the period as early as the end of June or in July. These shootings were mostly carried out under the pretext of "retribution", punishment for "plundering" or else portrayed as a struggle against "partisans".. This behaviour corresponded to commands which the Einsatzgruppen had received at the beginning of the campaign. In some cases, as we have seen, the leaders of the units even made reference to having received orders to this effect.
 
2.7.3The behaviour of the units followed a standardised pattern which however was not altogether uniform: the age limit of those to be shot varied from one unit to another; while in some places the entire male population in the designated age group was shot, the executions in other places included different percentages of the male population. Clearly the leaders of the units also had a certain amount of leeway as concerns the nature of the orders given to them; as we have seen, these were not always very precise and left a certain amount of room for interpretation.
2.7.4This sort of "indirect" command, based upon the intuition and initiative of the subordinates, is characteristic for the Nazi system. It was employed especially when subordinates were being asked to do something which clearly violated the accepted law. The Highest Party Court of the Nazi Party had appropriately characterised this sort of "indirect" command in 1939, when it was asked to deal with the question of whether Party members were to be punished for capital crimes committed in the course of the November pogrom of 1938. The Highest Party Court concluded at that time that "for active Nazis from the early period of struggle it was self-evident... that in actions where the Party does not want to openly appear as the organiser, orders are not issued with absolute clarity or in the smallest detail. He [the active Nazi, P.L.] is therefore accustomed to interpret more than is literally stated, just as those who give the orders often are accustomed - in the interest of the Party - not to state everything but to hint at what is to be achieved by the command. This is especially the case when it is a question of illegal political demonstrations."116
2.7.5This technique of command-giving was also employed in 1941 in connection with the mass murder of Soviet Jews. The leaders of the individual units were granted a certain latitude, only however within the context of a framework determined by the SS leadership.
2.7.6In order to assure that the basic policy intentions of the SS leadership were actually put into practice by the units, Himmler, Heydrich and Daluege undertook extended inspection tours in the occupied Eastern territories in the first few weeks of the war. In this way, they encouraged the units to continuously increase the number of Jewish   men to be shot. The inspection trips thus constituted an important instrument for reinforcing the system of "indirect command". The units continuously reported these shootings, as we have seen from the event reports; these reports were made known to a large number of agencies in the Reich.
2.7.7Thus it is clear that the murders had a systematic character: they cannot be explained as spontaneous reactions of individual SS leaders to specific local situations; rather they followed a uniform pattern and were in accord with central orders.

Notes

112. 'einsetzen nur zur Liquidierung der Juden' YV 053/127, KTB Btl. 322, 2.8.41.
113. '3. Komp. nimmt alle im Alter von 16 bis 45 Jahren in Bialowisce befindlichen männlichen Juden fest und führt die Evakuierung aller übrigen Juden aus Bialowicz durch.' Ibid., 9.8.41.
114. 'Von der 3. Komp. wurde heute die Liqudierung der im Gefangenen-Sammellager in Bialowiecza untergebrachten männlichen Juden durchgeführt. 77 Juden im Alter von 16 bis 45 Jahren wurden hierbei erschossen.' YV, 053/127.
115. 'Umgesiedelt wurden 259 Frauen u. 162 Kindern nach Kobryn. Erschossen wurden alle männlichen Juden im Alter von 16-65 Jahren (282 Köpfe) und 1 Pole wegen Plünderung.' Ibid., 15.8.41.
116. 'dem aktiven Nationalsozialisten aus der Kampfzeit selbstverständlich ..., daß Aktionen, bei denen die Partei nicht als Organisator in Erscheinung treten will, nicht mit letzter Klarheit und in allen Einselheiten befohlen werden. Er ist infolgedessen gewohnt, aus einem solchen Befehl mehr herauszulesen, als wörtlich gesagt ist, wie es auch auf der Seite des Befehlsgebers vielfach Übung geworden ist, im Interesse der Partei-gerade, wenn es sich um illegale politische Kundgebungen handelt - nicht alles zu sagen und nur anzudeuten, was er mit dem Befehl erreichen will.' BAB, NS 36/13, printed in Longerich (ed.), Ermordung, pp. 43f.
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