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

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3. The Mass murders in Serbia

3.1On 22 June 1941, the day of the attack on the Soviet Union, the German military administration of Serbia arrested all leading communists, as well as persons that had fought against Franco in the Spanish civil war. The Jewish community of Belgrade was forced to provide a further 40 hostages daily. In "reprisal" for acts of resistance, there were almost daily shootings of hostages, communists and Jews held in German custody.262 In August, the arrests were extended to all Jewish men. As in the Soviet Union, the "measures of retaliation" in Serbia were thus directed against the image of the enemy as "Jewish Bolshevism". Despite the shootings, the Serbian resistance against the occupying power continued to grow. After 22 German soldiers were killed in a further attack, the General in command in Serbia, Böhme, ordered on 4 October "the immediate shooting of 100 Serbian prisoners for each German soldier killed", as a measure of "retaliation and punishment".263 According to Böhme, the prisoners of the concentration camps Sabac and Belgrade - "mainly Jews and communists", in particular - should be executed.264 About 2000 Jews and 200   Gypsies from these concentration camps were in fact killed, between 9 and 13 October.265 Böhme's policy of directing his "retaliation measures" against Jews in the first instance was explicitly supported by Luther, the Head of the German Department of the Foreign Office, and the specialist on Jewish Questions of the RSHA, Eichmann: in a letter of 16 September, Luther had directed the representative of the Foreign Office in Belgrad to treat the sum of the imprisoned Jewish men as hostages,266 and during a telephone conversation with the Department for Jewish Questions of the Foreign Office on 13 October 1941, Eichmann recommended that the entire group of persons in question should be shot.267
3.2On 10 October, Böhme issued the general command "to shoot 100 prisoners or hostages for every German soldier or ethnic German (man, women or child) killed or murdered", and "50 prisoners or hostages for every wounded German soldier or ethnic German".268 "Immediately" to be arrested as hostages were: "all Communists; all inhabitants suspected as such; all Jews to a man; a certain number of nationalistically and democratically minded inhabitants".269
3.3In accordance with this scheme, a further 2200 men were shot a few days later, Jews and Gypsies once more among them. This was in response to 10 casualties and 24 wounded in battle of the Wehrmacht forces.270 In the two weeks following the order of 10 October, Wehrmacht units shot more than 9000 Jews, Gypsies and other civilians.271 By the beginning of November, 8000 Jewish men had been executed by the firing squads.272 The families of those murdered were interned in concentration camps during the winter, and murdered early in the next year in gas-vans.273

Notes

259. ZSt., 208 AR-Z 252/59, vol. 6, pp. 1179, statement of Stanislaw Kozak. Start of construction was 1.11.41. Printed in NS-Massentötungen, pp. 152f. Michael Tregenza's study Belzec Death Camp confirms this date, WLB 30 (1977), pp. 8-25.
260. According to Arad, Belzec, p. 17, the first group of the 'Euthanasia' personnel arrived in Belzec between the end of October and the end of December.
261. Pohl, Lublin, pp. 101 and 105f.
262. Manoschek, Serbien, pp. 43f.
263. 'Repressalie und Sühne ... sofort für jeden ermordeten deutschen Soldaten 100 serbische Häftlinge zu erschießen'. Ibid. pp. 49ff.
264. Ibid. pp. 79ff. The order originally spoke of 2100 victims, but the figure was raised by 100 after a further German soldier died.
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