Operation Reinhard

 

reinhard-oathOperation Reinhard (Einsatz Reinhard) became the code name for the German plan to murder the approximately two million Jews residing in the so-called Generalgouvernement (Government General).The Generalgouvernement was the part of German-occupied Poland not directly annexed to Germany, attached to German East Prussia, or incorporated into the German-occupied Soviet Union.

As many as two million Jews were sent to Bełżec, Sobibór, and Treblinka, extermination camps set up specifically for Operation Reinhard, to be put to death in gas chambers built for that purpose.In addition, mass killing facilities using Zyklon B were developed at about the same time within the Majdanek concentration camp and at Auschwitz II-Birkenau near the existing Auschwitz I camp for Polish prisoners.

The origin of the operation’s name is debated by Holocaust researchers. Various German documents spell the name differently, some with “t” after “d” (as in “Aktion Reinhardt”), others without it. Yet a different spelling was used in the Höfle Telegram.

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It is generally believed that Aktion Reinhardt, outlined at Wannsee on 20 January 1942, was named after Reinhard Heydrich, the coordinator of the Endlösung der Judenfrage (the Final Solution of the Jewish Question) which entailed the extermination of the Jews living in the European countries occupied by the Third Reich. Heydrich was attacked by British-trained Czechoslovak agents on 27 May 1942 and died of his injuries eight days later

Reinhard Heydrich

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/06/20/operation-anthropoid-the-assassination-of-reinhard-heydrich/

The RSHA was the agency responsible for coordinating the deportation of European Jews to killing centers in German-occupied Poland. In January 1939, December 1940, and July 1941, Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering had tasked Heydrich personally with drafting plans for a solution of the “Jewish question.”

SS General Odilo Globocnik, SS and police leader in the Lublin District of the Generalgouvernement, directed Operation Reinhard between autumn 1941 and late summer 1943.

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He established two departments on his staff for this purpose. The first was a deportation coordination team under SS Major Hermann Hoefle, who was responsible for arranging personnel and transport for the planned deportations. Hoefle also coordinated deportation operations, which were usually placed under the command of the regional SS and police commander, with regional SS and police and civilian occupation authorities.

The second department was the Inspectorate of SS Special Detachments under Criminal Police captain Christian Wirth, who was responsible for the construction and management of the three Operation Reinhard killing centers (Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka II).

The Operation Reinhard killing centers were managed by small detachments of German SS and Police and guarded by detachments of police auxiliaries trained at the Trawniki training camp.

As Globocnik listed them in January 1944, the aims of Operation Reinhard were: (1) to “resettle” (i.e., to kill) the Polish Jews, (2) to exploit the skilled or manual labor of some Polish Jews before killing them, (3) to secure the personal property of the Jews (clothing, currency, jewelry, and other possessions), and (4) to identify and secure alleged hidden and immovable assets such as factories, apartments, and land.

Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka II

Construction of Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka II began in autumn 1941. Christian Wirth, who had played a significant role in the murder of institutionalized persons with disabilities in Germany between 1939 and 1941, applied his experience of killing with carbon monoxide exhaust fumes to the construction of the Operation Reinhard killing centers.

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In all three camps, Trawniki-trained guards, supervised by Operation Reinhard staff, murdered their victims by using carbon monoxide gas generated by stationary engines and pumped into gas chambers.

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After a few test gassings using Polish prisoners and Soviet prisoners of war, killing operations at Belzec began in March 1942. They continued until December 1942. Sobibor began operating in May 1942 and remained functional until October 1943. Treblinka II opened in July 1942 and was closed in August 1943.

German staff and their auxiliaries (most of them trained at the Trawniki training camp) murdered at least 434,508 Jews and an undetermined number of Poles, Roma (Gypsies), and Soviet prisoners of war in Belzec; at least 170,000 Jews and an undetermined number of Poles, Roma, and Soviet prisoners of war in Sobibor; and approximately 925,000 Jews and an unknown number of Poles, Roma, and Soviet prisoners of war in Treblinka II.

Approximately 178 million German Reichsmarks worth of Jewish property (current approximate value: around US$700 million or 550 million Euro) was taken from the victims, with vast transfers of gold and valuables to the Reichsbank’s “Melmer” account, Gold Pool, and monetary reserve.

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But this wealth did not only go to the German authorities, because corruption was rife within the death camps. Many of the individual SS members and policemen involved in the killings took cash, property, and valuables for themselves. SS-Sturmbannführer Georg Konrad Morgen, an SS judge from the SS Courts Office, prosecuted so many Nazi officers for individual violations that by April 1944, Himmler personally ordered him to restrain his case.

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The overwhelming majority of victims in the Operation Reinhard killing centers were Jews deported from ghettos in Poland. Once the killing centers were operational, German SS and police forces liquidated the ghettos and deported Jews by rail to those killing centers.

The victims of Belzec were mainly Jews from the ghettos of southern Poland, and included German, Austrian, and Czech Jews held in the Piaski and Izbica transit ghettos in Lublin District.

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Jews deported to Sobibor came mainly from the Lublin area and other ghettos of the eastern Generalgouvernement; this killing center also received transports from France and the Netherlands.

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Deportations to Treblinka originated mainly from central Poland, primarily from the Warsaw ghetto, but also from the Districts Radom and Krakow in the Generalgouvernement, from District Bialystok, as well as from Bulgarian-occupied Thrace and Macedonia.

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Also part of Operation Reinhard were several forced-labor camps for Jews in District Lublin, including Poniatowa, the Trawniki forced-labor camp, Budzyn, Krasnik, and the Lublin/Majdanek camp before its formal conversion into a concentration camp in February 1943. For a time, Majdanek also served as a killing site for Jews whom the SS could no longer kill at Belzec in the late autumn of 1942.

In November 1943, after the Sobibor uprising, SS and police units shot the Jewish labor forces still incarcerated at Trawniki, Poniatowa, and Majdanek, 42,000 in all, within the framework of Operation “Harvest Festival.” With the completion of “Harvest Festival,” Operation Reinhard came to a conclusion, with Globocnik submitting a final report to Himmler in January 1944.

In all, the SS and police killed approximately 1.7 million Jews as part of Operation Reinhard. The victims of the Operation Reinhard camps also included an unknown number of Poles, Roma, and Soviet prisoners of war.

 

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Wannsee Conference

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference.

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On January 20, 1942, 15 high-ranking Nazi Party and German government officials gathered at a villa in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee to discuss and coordinate the implementation of what they called the “Final Solution” of the Jewish Question.

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The conference was held like any business conference or corporation event.Below are some of the documents.

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In preparation for the conference, Eichmann drafted a list of the numbers of Jews in the various European countries. Countries were listed in two groups, “A” and “B”. “A” countries were those under direct Reich control or occupation (or partially occupied and quiescent, in the case of Vichy France); “B” countries were allied or client states, neutral, or at war with Germany. The numbers reflect actions already completed by Nazi forces; for example, Estonia is listed as Judenfrei (free of Jews), since the 4,500 Jews who remained in Estonia after the German occupation had been exterminated by the end of 1941.Occupied Poland was not on the list because by 1939 the country was split three ways between Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany in the west, the territories of Poland annexed by the Soviet Union in the east, and the General Government, where many Polish and Jewish expellees had already been resettled.

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The “Final Solution” was the code name for the systematic, deliberate, physical annihilation of the European Jews. At some still undetermined time in 1941, Hitler authorized this European-wide scheme for mass murder. Heydrich convened the Wannsee Conference (1) to inform and secure support from government ministries and other interested agencies relevant to the implementation of the “Final Solution,” and (2) to disclose to the participants that Hitler himself had tasked Heydrich and the RSHA with coordinating the operation. The men at the table did not deliberate whether such a plan should be undertaken, but instead discussed the implementation of a policy decision that had already been made at the highest level of the Nazi regime.

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At the time of the Wannsee Conference, most participants were already aware that the National Socialist regime had engaged in mass murder of Jews and other civilians in the German-occupied areas of the Soviet Union and in Serbia. Some had learned of the actions of the Einsatzgruppen and other police and military units, which were already slaughtering tens of thousands of Jews in the German-occupied Soviet Union.

Others were aware that units of the German Army and the SS and police were killing Jews in Serbia. None of the officials present at the meeting objected to the Final Solution policy that Heydrich announced.

Not present at the meeting were representatives of the German Armed Forces (Wehrmacht) and the Reich Railroads (Reichsbahn) in the German Ministry of Transportation. The SS and police had already negotiated agreements with the German Army High Command on the murder of civilians, including Soviet Jews, in the spring of 1941, prior to the invasion of the Soviet Union. In late September 1941, Hitler had authorized the Reich Railroads to transport German, Austrian, and Czech Jews to locations in German-occupied Poland and the German-occupied Soviet Union, where German authorities would kill the overwhelming majority of them.

Heydrich indicated that approximately 11,000,000 Jews in Europe would fall under the provisions of the “Final Solution.” In this figure, he included not only Jews residing in Axis-controlled Europe, but also the Jewish populations of the United Kingdom, and the neutral nations (Switzerland, Ireland, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, and European Turkey). For Jews residing in the Greater German Reich and holding the status of subjects of the German Reich, the Nuremberg Laws would serve as a basis for determining who was a Jew.

Heydrich announced that “during the course of the Final Solution, the Jews will be deployed under appropriate supervision at a suitable form of labor deployment in the East. In large labor columns, separated by gender, able-bodied Jews will be brought to those regions to build roads, whereby a large number will doubtlessly be lost through natural reduction. Any final remnant that survives will doubtless consist of the elements most capable of resistance. They must be dealt with appropriately, since, representing the fruit of natural selection, they are to be regarded as the core of a new Jewish revival.”

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The participants discussed a number of other issues raised by the new policy, including the establishment of the Theresienstadt camp-ghetto as a destination for elderly Jews as well Jews who were disabled or decorated in World War I, the deferment until after the war of “Final Solution” measures against Jews married to non-Jews or persons of mixed descent as defined by the Nuremberg laws, prospects for inducing Germany’s Axis partners to give up their Jewish populations, and preparatory measures for the “evacuations.”

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Despite the euphemisms which appeared in the protocols of the meeting, the aim of the Wannsee Conference was clear to its participants: to further the coordination of a policy aimed at the physical annihilation of the European Jews.

 

Josef Bühler-Assistant Henchman

One of the Christmas presents I got this year from Santa was a book by Robert Harris called “Fatherland”

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Is an alternate history detective story novel Set in a universe where Nazi Germany won World War II, the story’s lead protagonist is an SS officer investigating the murder of Joseph Bühler. The book is set in 1964, my curiosity urged me to do some research on Joseph Bühler.

Josef Bühler (16 February 1904 – 22 August 1948) was a secretary and deputy governor to the Nazi-controlled General Government in Kraków during World War II.

 

Bühler was born in Bad Waldsee into a Catholic family of 12 children, his father being a baker

Dr. Josef Bühler joined the NSDAP  in 1922. He was one of the members of the attempted Nazi putsch in Munich on November 9, 1923.

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Buhler worked as a lawyer in partnership with Dr. Hans Frank, who was Adolf Hitler’s attorney. When the Nazis came to power, Buhler was appointed Deputy President of the Academy of German Law.

In 1938 Hans Frank, now Reich Minister without portfolio, put Bühler in charge of his cabinet office. After the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany in September 1939, Frank was appointed Governor-General for the occupied Polish territories and Bühler accompanied him to Kraków to take up the post of State Secretary of the General Government, also serving as Frank’s deputy. He was given the honorary rank of SS-Brigadeführer by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler around this time.

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Bühler attended the Wannsee Conference on 20 January 1942 as the representative from the Governor-General’s office. During this conference – which discussed the imposition of the ‘Final Solution of the Jewish Question in the German Sphere of Influence in Europe’ – Bühler stated to the other conference attendees the importance of solving ‘the Jewish Question in the General Government as quickly as possible’

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After the war, Bühler testified on Frank’s behalf at the Nuremberg Trials. He was later extradited to Poland and tried before the Supreme National Tribunal of Poland for crimes against humanity, sentenced to death and the forfeiture of all property on 10 July 1948, and executed in Kraków. His death was announced 22 August by Polish authorities and noted in the New York Times the following day.

 

 

The Riegner Telegram-The Document that could have saved many lives.

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The Riegner Telegram was a telegraph message sent on 8 August 1942 from Gerhart Riegner, then Secretary of World Jewish Congress (Geneva), to its New York and London offices.

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The cable confirmed the alarming reports that had reached the West previously about the German intention to mass murder the European Jews.

Riegner was office manager of the WJC in Geneva. He was informed about the German plans for the final solution by German industrialist Eduard Schulte.

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Through his British and American diplomatic channels -Rabbi Stephen Samuel Wise of the American Jewish Congress in New York and Sydney Silverman, a Jewish Member of Parliament and Chairman of the British Section, World Jewish Congress.

Riegner sent the following message to his contacts via the British Foreign Office and the State Department in Washington:

Received alarming report stating that, in the Fuehrer’s Headquarters, a plan has been discussed, and is under consideration, according to which all Jews in countries occupied or controlled by Germany numbering 3½ to 4 millions should, after deportation and concentration in the East, be at one blow exterminated, in order to resolve, once and for all the Jewish question in Europe. Action is reported to be planned for the autumn. Ways of execution are still being discussed including the use of prussic acid. We transmit this information with all the necessary reservation, as exactitude cannot be confirmed by us. Our informant is reported to have close connexions with the highest German authorities, and his reports are generally reliable. Please inform and consult New York.

However, in England and the United States, Riegner’s telegram was met with disbelief. The US State Department considered the telegram “a wild rumor, fueled by Jewish anxieties” while the British Foreign Office didn’t forward the telegram for some time. Only on the 28 August 1942 did it find its way to the President of the World Jewish Congress, Rabbi Stephen Wise, who decided to not make it public.Early in 1944, Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr. stated in front of President Roosevelt that “certain officials in our State Department” had failed while it would have been commanded by duty to “prevent the extermination of the Jews in German-controlled Europe.

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