Decision To Exterminate
The war moved
into full gear in the summer of 1941, and what was called the "Final
Solution of the Jewish Question" then followed in the wake of the German
army's advance into Soviet Russia.
1941, German Jews were transported to ghettos in Poland. The Economic
and Administration Main Office of the SS had considerable industrial
interests in Eastern Europe, and used Jewish labour, skills and equipment.
Auschwitz for example, was an extermination camp (at Birkenau) for Jews,
a general concentration camp (Auschwitz I), and industrial complex (Buna
- Auschwitz III) for the production of synthetic rubber, and a prisoner
of war camp.
invasion of Russia Hitler now became involved in a war of ideologies
- his wish was not simply to conquer territory but to remove those people
who he felt were "sub human" the Slav race and, more importantly to
Hitler, the Jews.
behind the invasion forces into Russia were mobile extermination squads
whose task was to kill both communists and also Jews.
Groups were divided into four - A, B, C and D - and operated just
behind the advancing troops. Immediately after entering a town or village,
the commander of the Action Group would send for the rabbi and demand
that his community should assemble for despatch to a Jewish region.
Jewish community had assembled, the Action Group, with the help of local
militia, would usually transport the Jews by truck to a nearby wood
and be forced to dig a trench. The whole population would then be machine-gunned.
FROM A REPORT BY KARL JAGER, COMMANDER OF EINSATZKOMMANDO 3, ON THE
EXTERMINATION OF LITHUANIAN JEWS, 1941.
Summary of Executions carried out in the operating area of ED (Einsatzkommando)
3 up to December 1, 1941.
can confirm today that Einsatzkommando 3 has achieved the goal of solving
the Jewish problem in Lithuania. There are no more Jews in Lithuania,
apart from working Jews and their families.
Shavli, about 4,500
in Kovno, about 15,000
in Vilna, about 15,000.
to eliminate the working Jews and their families as well, but the Civil
Administration (Reichskommissar) and the Wehrmacht attacked me most
sharply and issued a prohibition against having these Jews and their
of such Aktionen is first of all an organisational problem. The decision
to clear each sub-district systematically of Jews called for a thorough
preparation for each Aktion and the study of local conditions. The Jews
had to be concentrated in one or more localities and, in accordance
with their numbers, a site had to be selected and pits dug. The marching
distance from the concentration points to the pits averaged 4 to 5 kms.
The Jews were brought to the place of execution in groups of 500, with
at least 2 kms distance between groups..."
the Aktionen against the Jews of EK 3 to be virtually completed. The
remaining working Jews and Jewesses are urgently needed, and I can imagine
that this manpower will continue to be needed urgently after the winter
has ended. I am of the opinion that the male working Jews should be
sterilised immediately to prevent reproduction. Should any Jewess nevertheless
become pregnant, she is to be liquidated..."
Conference for the Final Solution of the Jewish Question held in
Berlin, spelt out the fate of the Jews in Europe:
of the dangers of emigration in time of war and in view of the possibilities
in the East, the Reichsführer SS and Chief of the German Police (Himmler)
has forbidden the emigration of Jews. In lieu of emigration, the evacuation
of the Jews to the East has emerged, after an appropriate prior authorisation
by the Fuhrer, as a further solution possibility."
course of the Final Solution, the Jews should be brought under appropriate
direction in a suitable manner to the East for labour utilisation. Separated
by sex, the Jews capable of work will be led into these areas in large
labour columns to build roads whereby doubtless a large part will fall
away through natural reduction. The residual final remainder which doubtless
constitutes the toughest element, will have to be dealt with appropriately,
since it represents a natural selection which upon liberation was to
be regarded as a germ cell of a new Jewish development (see the lessons
haphazard murders of the Action Groups, the Nazis had come to the decision
to systematically exterminate every Jew in Europe. Special death camps
were to be set up with the sole purpose of murdering Jews.
million Jews were killed in these death camps which were built
near cities: Treblinka to Warsaw, Belzec, Sobibor and
Majdanek to Lublin, and Chelmno to Lodz. The camp at Auschwitz
in Silesia was chosen to exterminate longer-distance deportees from
Western, Central and Southern Europe, and was astride a major railway
route from Vienna to Crakow.
Why do you
think that the Nazis chose to locate the death camps in Poland rather
than in Germany?
Look at the
two sources below:
- In what
ways are the attitudes of Hoess echoed in the film 'Schindler's List'?
Reading the second source, how is the testimony of the Auschwitz survivor
reflected in Hoess' description of the camp and its activities? What
reasons are given to the Jews for their transportation? How does this
affect the ways in which they react?
- The death
camps kept up their murderous work often until just before they were
liberated by the Allies in 1945. By the end of the war, 6,000,000 Jews
had been murdered.
FROM WRITTEN EVIDENCE OF RUDOLPH HOESS COMMANDER OF THE AUSCHWITZ EXTERMINATION
summer of 1941, I cannot remember the exact date, I was suddenly summoned
to the Reichsführer SS, directly by his adjutant's office. Contrary
to his usual custom, Himmler received me without his adjutant being
present and said in effect:
has ordered that the Jewish question be solved once and for all and
that we, the SS, are to implement that order.
extermination centers in the East are not in a position to carry out
the large Aktionen which are anticipated. I have therefore earmarked
Auschwitz for this purpose, both because of its good position as regards
communications and because the area can easily be isolated and camouflaged.
are the sworn enemies of the German people and must be eradicated. Every
Jew that we can lay our hands on is to be destroyed now during the war,
without exception. If we cannot now obliterate the biological basis
of Jewry, the Jews will one day destroy the German people."
the ways and means of effecting the extermination. This could only be
done by gassing, since it would have been absolutely impossible to dispose
by shooting of the large numbers of people that were expected, and it
would have placed too heavy a burden on the SS man who had to carry
it out, especially because of the women and children among the victims.
We calculated that after gas-proofing the premises then available, it
would be possible to kill about 800 people simultaneously with a suitable
gas. These figures were borne out later in practice..."
FROM THE TESTIMONY OF AN AUSCHWITZ SURVIVOR
was born in Czechoslovakia in 1930. Not long after his bar mitzvah he
was sent with his family to Auschwitz. This is how he describes what
we did not yet know the name of our destination we were, in fact, at
Auschwitz-Birkenau. When the SS guards, with rifles at the ready pointing
at us, led us to the train, the ghetto-commandant announced that this
transport was heading 'East' where Jews would be resettled and given
agricultural work. The war had made a shortage of food and Jewish colonies
would have to help the Axis war effort. In the process, the commandant
added "You will be well housed, well fed and when the war ends maybe
we shall let you go to your homes again!"
returned,...he sat down beside me and said, "We are in the most terrible
place in the world, and we are abandoned people. I don't know what is
to become of us." And for the first time since we got on the train my
father cried and his sobs were the saddest sounds I had ever heard.
In the next two or three days I descovered how Auschwitz-Birkenau worked.
How the young and old, to the sound of music were marched to the low
buildings that looked like our shower block, how they had to strip and
make neat piles and how instead of hot water they were engulfed by the
vapours of Zyclon B gas and how they were then taken to ovens and cremated...
And about the way in which human fat and ashes were turned into soap.
Perhaps the small grey bars of soap we were given."
find the document giving a
historical summary of events helpful in gaining an overview of what
happened in the period 1933-1945.