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    Operation Reinhard: Number of Jews Murdered

    How many Jews were murdered in the Operation Reinhard death camps of Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor?

    Holocaust deniers claim that the number of Jews murdered in Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor (about 800,000, 450,000, and 170,000 respectively) have been “simply invented” and are only “numbers plucked entirely from thin air” for which there is “no documentary or physical evidence.”[1]

    How we know how many Jews were murdered in Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor.

    We do not know the exact number of Jews who were murdered in the three death camps of Operation Reinhard. Most of the records were destroyed by order of Odilo Globocnik, the head of Operation Reinhard, so most historians and investigating bodies who tried to establish a death toll in early years after the end of the war had little documentary evidence with which to work. They reconstructed the number of victims based on educated guesses about the number and average size of transports over the estimated lifetimes of the camps coupled with survivor and perpetrator eyewitness testimony. This method led to numbers that were often too high. However, newly-accessible German documents allow modern historians to make more accurate—although not perfect—calculations.

    Deportation of Jews from Marseille, France. Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-027-1477-21 / Vennemann, Wolfgang / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons.
    Deportation of Jews from Marseille, France. Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-027-1477-21 / Vennemann, Wolfgang / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons.

    There is primary German documentation about the number of Jews murdered in the death camps.

    There are two important primary German documents which provide detailed evidence about the numbers of Jews murdered in the Operation Reinhard death camps through the end of 1942.   These primary documents are:

    • The Höfle telegram of January 11, 1943
    • The Korherr Report of March 1943

    An examination of the Höfle telegram.

    This telegram was discovered in 2000 in a batch of newly-declassified World War II documents in the Public Records Office in Kew, England. The telegram had been intercepted and decoded by the British, who did not understand its implications at the time and filed it away.[2]

    Hermann Höfle, Odilo Globocnik’s adjutant in Lublin, Poland sent the telegram to Adolf Eichmann in Berlin, Germany on January 11, 1943. The telegram was stamped “State Secret.” It listed the number of arrivals at Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor and the Majdanek concentration camp in Lublin, during the last two weeks of December 1942. Höfle also gave the total number of Jews who had been shipped to these camps up to December 31, 1942. Höfle’s figures were as follows:

                                        Previous two weeks                           Total until December 31, 1942

    (L)ubin……………………………12,761………………………………………………………………………….24,733

    (B)elzec………………………………..0………………………………………………………………………….434,508

    (S)obibor……………………………515…………………………………………………………………………..101,370

    (T)reblinka………………………..10,335………………………………………………………………………..713,555

    Total……………………………….23,611…………………………………………………………………..1,274,166

    Hermann Höfle Telegram, January 15, 1943
    Telegram, January 15, 1943 Hermann Höfle (1911–1962) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

    We are concerned here only with Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka.

    Belzec: The first transport arrived on March 17, 1942 and the last transport arrived in the first half of November 1942. Thus, Höfle’s number of 434,508 victims for Belzec is a reasonable total for the lifetime of the camp.

    Sobibor: The first transport arrived at the beginning of May 1942 and the transports continued off and on until October 1943. Recent research indicates that transports from France, the Netherlands, Yugoslavia, Poland, Lithuania and Belarus arrived in 1943 adding another 68,795 victims for a total of 170,165 over the lifetime of the camp.[3]

    Treblinka: The first transport arrived on July 23, 1942 and the last transport arrived on August 21, 1943. Höfle gave a figure of 713,555 victims to the end of December 1942. Many of the transports in 1943 have been identified and a minimum of at least 71,000 victims can be added for a working total of about 784,555 over the lifetime of the camp.[4]

    Every single transport to the three camps is not known. But the evidence shows that a minimum of 1,389,228 Jews were murdered in these three camps.

    An examination of the Korherr Report.

    Richard Korherr was a statistician in the Third Reich. In March 1943 he was charged by Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, with preparing a progress report on the Final Solution. Korherr worked out of Adolf Eichmann’s office in Berlin, Germany and had access to all his records relating to immigration and deportations. Korherr prepared a 16-page report, chillingly entitled “The Final Solution of the European Jewish Question,” in which he tallied the losses and additions in the Jewish population that had been in or come under German control from 1933 to 1943. He computed the changes in the Jewish population due to immigration, deaths, births, and evacuations and documented the current location (concentration and labor camps, jails, ghettos, etc.) of the remaining living Jews. He concluded that the total number of Jews under the influence of the Germans in their first decade in power had been “almost halved,” that is, the original population had been reduced by nearly 4,000,000.[5]

    The fate of many of the Jews who had not managed to immigrate to countries outside of German control (i.e. the United States, Central and South America, Palestine, Africa, Asia and Australia) is made clear in a section in Korherr’s report entitled “Evacuation of the Jews.” Most of the missing Jews from western Europe and Poland were accounted for in a chilling statistic headed “Transportation of Jews from the Eastern provinces to the Russian East.” Korherr quotes exactly Höfle’s figure (1,274,166) for the number of Jews that had been “pushed through” Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka and Majdanek. It is clear that he had access to Höfle’s telegram at the time of his research and that he felt Höfle’s figures were the most accurate available.

    However, when Korherr submitted his first report to Himmler he was notified that Himmler did not want “any reference to be made anywhere to ‘Special Treatment of the Jews.’” Korherr was given the exact wording he was to use for the “evacuation” of Jews from the eastern provinces to the East. They were to be referred to as having been “processed through the camps in the Government-General.” Korherr was told that: “Another wording may not be used.”[6] Korherr dutifully changed the offending words and re-submitted the report. We do not know what his original wording was because the first draft of his report has not been found, only the letter telling him what words to substitute and the final version of his report.

    Interestingly, Korherr did not replace one instance of the revealing words “Special Treatment” in his report. The term remains in the line where Korherr listed the total of all Jews (1,873,549) Jews who had been “evacuated” to the east.[7]

    What the Holocaust deniers say about the Korherr Report.

    The Holocaust deniers try to shred the credibility of the Korherr Report in a variety of ways, ultimately claiming that the Report provides “no explicit evidence” of a policy of “Judeocide.”[8] Overall, they claim that Korherr was incompetent and his figures are worthless. If their attack on the credibility of the Report doesn’t work, then they claim that Korherr padded the figures relating to immigration and evacuation to allow Himmler to impress Hitler with his efficiency. Finally, if the attack on Korherr’s competency and credibility fails, then they allege that the document was tampered with after the war by unnamed parties interested in pinning the charge of genocide on the Germans.[9]

    How we know the Korherr Report is trustworthy.

    The accuracy of Korherr’s figures can been seen in his figures for the number of Jews deported from France by December 31, 1942. The transport lists for all French transports exist and the names, nationalities, birth dates and birth places for every single one of the deported Jews is known. The figure compiled from the transport lists totals 41,941. Korherr’s figure is 41,911. The difference is 30. Korherr’s figure for Belgian Jews is 16,886, while the total from the actual transports lists is 16,861. This is a difference of 25 people.[10] These differences are miniscule and prove that Korherr was working with and used reliable German documents.

    Recall too that Korherr quotes exactly the Höfle telegram, giving Höfle’s figures of Jews (1,274,166) that had been “pushed through” Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka and Majdanek. There is no “padding” here—the figures come straight from figures compiled by other Germans.

    Thus, it would seem that Korherr’s figures are accurate and the Holocaust denier’s charge that he was incompetent or padded his figures to impress his boss does not apply. As for the accusation of post-war tampering, this is a common Holocaust denier tactic. Any document that does not support their assertions is denounced as a forgery or that it has been tampered with. In fact, there is no evidence the Korherr Report has ever been tampered with in any way.

    Conclusion

    The Holocaust denier’s claims that the figures for the number of Jews murdered in the Operation Reinhard camps were “simply invented” or “plucked from thin air” are false.

    Recent research based on primary German documents (including the Korherr Report) shows that at least 1,400,000 Jews were murdered in Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor.

    NOTES

    [1] Carlo Mattogno and Jürgen Graf, Treblinka: Extermination Camp or Transit Camp? (Theses & Dissertations Press, 2004), p. 101 at http://vho.org/dl/ENG/t.pdf. See also Mark Weber and Andrew Allen, “Wartime Aerial Photos of Treblinka Cast New Doubt on ‘Death Camp’ Claims,” Journal for Historical Review, Summer 1992 (Vol. 12, No. 2), pp. 133-158 at http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v12/v12p133_Allen.html.

    [2] Peter Witte and Stephen Tyas, “A New Document on the Deportation and Murder of Jews during ‘Einsatz Reinhardt’ 1942,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies, V15, N3, Winter 2001, p. 472. The article can be read in full at http://www.rodoh.us/052003-02282012arch11101961/arts/arts1/witte2001/witte-tyas_hgs2001-468.pdf.

    [3] Jules Schelvis, Sobibor: A History of a Nazi Death Camp (Berg, 2007), pp. 197-229.

    [4] Yitzhak Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka” The Operation Reinhard Death Camps (Indiana University Press, 1987), Appendix A, pp. 381-398. See also Sybil Milton, translator, The Stroop Report: The Jewish Quarter of Warsaw Is No More! (Pantheon Books, 1979), Report dated May 24, 1943.

    [5] “The Korherr Report” at http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?p=2097&sid=e1c472e6de9afcd87ee33c811089e651. The Report in German can be found at http://www.ns-archiv.de/verfolgung/korherr/korherr-lang.php.

    [6] “Richard ‘I Didn’t know’ Korherr” at http://holocaustcontroversies.blogspot.com/2007/04/richard-i-didnt-know-korherr.html.

    [7] “The Korherr Report”.

    [8] Stephen Challen, Richard Korherr and His Reports (Cromwell Press, 1993), p. 42.

    [9] Stephen Challen, Richard Korherr and His Reports (Cromwell Press, 1993), p. 43.

    [10] Georges Wellers, “The Number of Victims and the Korherr Report” in Serge Klarsfeld, editor, The Holocaust and the Neo-Nazi Mythomania, pp. 148-149 at http://www.holocaust-history.org/klarsfeld/mythomania/F005.shtml.