This is just my opinion and there is no scientific research done on this, at least not as far as I am aware, but I think the Holocaust can be categorized as organized randomness.
On a large scale the industrialized murder of millions was organized efficiently, however on smaller scales the treatment of mainly Jews, by the Nazis, was often quite random. There are several examples where Jews were left alone, One of those is the Jewish division in the Finnish army, Finland was one of the Axis powers.
There was even a field synagogue for these soldiers, some German soldiers sometimes even visited the synagogue and showed respect for the Jews who prayed there, despite the propaganda they had been subjected to for years.
Erhard Milch, Wilhelm Keitel, Walther von Brauchitsch, Erich Raeder, and Maximilian von Weichs were all senior officers in the Wehrmacht, and they all were of Jewish descent.
On the other hand, there were random single killings. One only has to think of Amon Göth who used to randomly shoot Jews from his balcony.
The ones in this post are also random. Just random thoughts of fear, hope, anxiety, and determination. The letter at the top of the post was a telegram from Erna and Arnold Korn from Berlin to their son Walter and his wife Chava (Chawa) on Kibbutz Matzuva, a month before the former were sent to their deaths in Auschwitz. Arnold and Erna would send Walter-who had moved in March 1939, to Eretz Israel—a letter every week. Afterwards, from time to time a telegram would reach him via the Red Cross. The last sign of life from Arnold and Erna was sent in February 1943.
21 December 1942
Post Office, Nahariya
We both, all the relatives, [and] Gerda, are healthy. Expecting a baby at the end of January. I hope Reni, Paula and Oskar are well. Work is good. We were happy to get your letter.
Kisses, Chava [and] Eliyahu
Sincere thanks for your words. Hope you are happy parents. We are both fine. No news of our dearest ones. Gerda is happy that you are well. Kisses.
11 February 1943
Yuri Lyubarski, a Jewish officer in the Red Army, wrote these words to his wife Rosa in Shymkent-Chimkent, Tashkent from the front in the Kharkiv region.
16 May 1942
Dear Rosichka and Larichka,
Yesterday, Grisha sent you 500 rubles in a registered letter and forgot to enclose my letter, which I’m sending now. In a few days, I will be getting money, and I’ll send you some. Then you’ll be able to buy yourself and Larichka everything you want. I contacted the Ministry of Finance requesting that they send the certificate to the Shymkent-Chimkent office of the Soldiers’ Association. You need to go there and check if it arrived, and to nag them. Maybe you should ask them to contact the office in Moscow. That may help you get the certificate quicker. They have your old address in Moscow. In any event, even if the document arrives late, you will receive money from May onwards. All in all, it would be better to get it on time.
There’s nothing new on my end. Please answer all the questions I asked you in previous letters down to the minutest details. Don’t think that long letters tire me out. Write as much as you can, and in as much detail as you can. I will read the good news with great pleasure. I await the arrival of a photo of you and Larichka and will try and send you some writing paper. No stamps are necessary.
I will end here. It’s already 1:00 in the morning and I’m going to sleep.
Stay alive and in good health.
Regards to Father, Mother, Masha, and the Eibinders.
Kisses to you and Larichka.
Letter from Siegfried Bodenheimer
Siegfried Bodenheimer wrote these words in his last letter to his son Ernst in the children’s home in Montintin, three months before Ernst’s Bar Mitzvah.
Les Milles camp, 18.5.42
My beloved Ernst,
Yesterday I received your letter of 10.5 and was glad to hear that you are well. We are always very interested to hear how your Achilles tendon is faring. What I hear from you alleviates my anxiety and I see that as far as you are concerned, all is well. Let’s hope it stays that way. What do you hear from your beloved Ilse and Mother? You will always receive mail from La Chatre.
Dear Ernst, although we [the family] are spread out, we have to thank God for one thing: that as of now, all of us are more or less healthy. Do you feel the same way, dear Ernst? We are now approaching Shavuot. What this means for us – I don’t need to tell you. The giving of the statutes [Torah] was a one-time event, but they will be in force for as long as the world exists. The commandments are so sacred and immutable that we must aspire to observe them under any circumstances. From this year forward, my dear son, you will have to observe them, and therefore, please act accordingly. But despite everything, always remain happy and good-hearted. Come what may, the war will still go on for a long time. The most important thing is that you learn something that will be useful.
Here, nothing significant has taken place. In the last week, many people have been forced to leave and go out to work. A few friends left for the US, and on Shabbat, a few received evacuation notices [transports to Auschwitz] for mid-June.
Have I already written to you that we have two beautiful dogs, called Pateraf and Conchet?
I see that you can already correct my mistakes! Yes, I spelled the word Mattre wrong. The French doesn’t penetrate my old head. For example, today, Monday – I had an English lesson, and in the morning, a French lesson.
Dear Ernst, observe the festival well and regards and kisses from your father.
Heartfelt regards to all the children we know, especially Av Maksel.
Can you read my handwriting?
Like so many other Jews from Berlin, Ilse Chotzen was deported to Riga, Latvia, with her husband Erich in January 1942. Erich died two months after their arrival in Riga, which made Ilse’s life even more difficult. She befriended a German soldier, Adolf—whose last name she never revealed—who agreed to send letters to Ilse’s in-laws under his name using the German military’s postal service. This was an extremely bold move since soldiers’ mail was inspected by the authorities. The nature of Ilse’s relationship between Ilse and Adolf is unknown. It is also unknown what happened to Adolf and whether he survived the war.
Ilse’s father-in-law in Berlin had died shortly after she and Erich were deported to Riga, but she had no way of knowing since she did not receive letters from Berlin there. So Ilse continued to write letters addressed to both Erich’s parents, describing life in Riga and asking about their health and circumstances in Berlin.
Dated 23 July 1942, the featured letter shows the deep pain experienced by its author. It also underscores the tragic disintegration of family ties—a common experience for many Jewish families during the Holocaust.2
llse Chotzen’s exact fate is unknown, but she did not survive the war. She was only twenty or twenty-one years old at the time of her death.
23./7 [23 July 1942]
This is the sixth time that I’ve written to you, and I still haven’t received any answer. What’s going on with you? By now, of course, you know everything that I’ve been through but just think: now I’m together with A. every day.1 He’s a great guy, and I’m very happy that I have him here. Enclosed, we’re sending along a permit stamp for military postal parcels. 1 kg. Please send A. soap, he needs it badly, and I urgently need stockings and a nightgown. You need to get the parcel ready right away, please, so that the stamp doesn’t expire. I can’t describe to you how I’m doing because I never suspected that one can survive with such profound pain. The longing for all of you, my dear ones, tortures me to no end, and to this day I still can’t conceive of living without my beloved Erich. I simply don’t comprehend it, and I always think (I sit in the dark at the window for half the night) that I just have to find him or something of him in nature, but…! Are you well? Dearest Mama and Papa, you’ve never been so close to me as you are now in my immeasurable grief. I think about you so much! […] I want you all to write to us, please, especially you, dearest Mama, and my dear Papa. Adolf would like to hear all your news, too. We talk a great deal about home. He’s interested in everything. […] Do send me pictures of Erich and yourselves, please. Dearest Papa, I hope your leg is alright again, I’m so worried about you and above all about Mama. I think about you so much, Papa, because Erich had such a close resemblance to you. When A. goes on leave in September, he’ll come to see you. He’ll be travelling through Berlin anyway. He’ll certainly have some stories for you! […]
The Last Letter From Aron Liwerant
Aron Liwerant wrote these words on a deportation train in France to his daughter, Berthe. Aron was murdered in Majdanek. Berthe survived.
3 March 1943
It is already day four. I am now in the railroad car. We are surely travelling to Germany. I am also certain we are going to work. We are about 700 people, 23 railroad cars. In each car, there are two gendarmes. This is a commercial railroad car, but it is neat with benches and a heater. Of course, German railroad cars. Of course, without compartments. They put a pail in it. Imagine the impression this makes. Not everyone can use it. You have to be strong in every situation.
I hope, my child, that you receive all my letters. If you can, keep them for a memento. Dear Berthe, I enclose two lottery tickets. I don’t have a newspaper. I believe I will be able to write a letter to Aunt Paula. I hope, my child, that you will know how to behave as a free person, even though you are without your parents for now. Don’t forget that you must survive, and don’t forget to be a Jew and also a human being. Sharae this with Simon. Remain free people and observe everything with open eyes. Don’t be influenced by first impressions. Know that you cannot open up a person to look inside, at his concealed thoughts, if he has a serious face, or even if he laughs and is pleasant. I don’t mean one specific thing only, but everything that lives around you and everything you see. Both false thoughts and honest thoughts are often blurred, and you should watch how a person behaves in your presence. You don’t see the falsehoods or the honesty of a person in one day. You understand that my advice is for your benefit. Always remember these ideas. My dear child, I think this letter will be my last because we are nearing Paris. If I can – I will write again. My dear Bertshi, take care of your health and don’t drink cold drinks when you sweat so I will be able to see my healthy children once again. Tell Simon everything I have written to you. Tell him to study and be a good student, because he is gifted. I am finishing my letter. Many kisses. I am going with the confidence that you will grow up and be a good, healthy, and smart girl.
Your Father, hoping to see you soon
This letter was thrown from a deportation train somewhere in Poland in December 1942.
It is morning. We are inside a railcar with the whole family. We left with the last departure. Płońsk has been cleared.
Please go to the [home] of the Bamóws on 6 Niska Street and give them our regards
This is from the side of those who were responsible for the Holocaust, The business-like language is probably more chilling them the words written by the victims. In a February 26, 1942 letter to Martin Luther, Reinhard Heydrich follows up on the Wannsee Conference by asking Luther for administrative assistance in the implementation of the “Endlösung der Judenfrage” (Final Solution of the Jewish Question).
Reichskommissar for Ostland
To: Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories
RE: Execution of Jews
…Will you please inform me whether your inquiry of 31 October should be interpreted as a directive to liquidate all the Jews in Ostland? Is this to be done regardless of age, sex, and economic requirements (for instance, the Wehrmacht’s demand for skilled workers in the armament industry)? Of course, the cleansing of Ostland of Jews is a most important task; its solution, however, must be in accord with the requirements of war production…
Reichskommissar for Ostland
Letter: The Jewish Question
Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories
To: Reichskommissar for Ostland
RE: Jewish question
The Jewish question has presumably been clarified by employing verbal discussion. In principle, economic considerations are not to be taken into account in the settlement of the problem. It is further requested that any questions that arise be settled directly with the Higher SS and Police Leader.
Reichskommissar for Ostland
To: Higher SS and Police Leader
…I request most emphatically that the liquidation of Jews employed as skilled workers in armament plants and repair workshops of the Wehrmacht who cannot be replaced at present by local personnel be prevented…
…Provision is to be made as quickly as possible for the training of suitable local personnel as skilled workers…
Reichskommissar for Ostland
16 December 1941
Generalkommissar for Byelorussia
To: Reichskommissar for Ostland
I wish to ask you personally for an official directive for the conduct of the civilian administration towards the Jews deported from Germany to Byelorussia. Among these Jews are men who fought at the Front and have the Iron Cross, First and Second Class, war invalids, half-Aryans, even three-quarter Aryans…
…These Jews will probably freeze or starve to death in the coming weeks…On my responsibility, I will not give the SD any instructions with regard to the treatment of these people…
I am certainly a hard [man] and willing to help solve the Jewish question, but people who come from our cultural sphere just are not the same as the brutish hordes in this place. Is the slaughter to be carried out by the Lithuanians and Letts, who are themselves rejected by the population here? I couldn’t do it. I beg you to give clear directives [in this matter,] with due consideration for the good name of our Reich and our Party, in order that the necessary action can be taken in the most humane manner.
What comes across quite clearly in these letters also, is the fact that it wasn’t only the Germans involved, The French gendarmerie, Lithuanians, and Latvians (referred to as Letts) are mentioned as perpetrators.
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