Sunday, August 24, 2008

Wehrmacht Complicity in the Holocaust in Ukraine

Wendy Lower has estimated that "As many as 300,000 Jews were killed under Wehrmacht administration in Ukraine" (p.245 of this collection). The higher ranks of the Wehrmacht in Ukraine cannot therefore be viewed as bystanders or silent partners in the genocide. Senior military figures often took part in meetings that decided the fate of Jews; they sometimes supplied the manpower that rounded them up; and they were often informed about the killings, even if their troops did not pull the triggers.

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The Wehrmacht is thus an important source of material both for understanding the co-ordination of the Holocaust in Ukraine and for combating Holocaust denial, because many of the most explicit accounts of killing policy were written by Wehrmacht administrators.

Furthermore, as Dieter Pohl writes on p.39 of his essay in this collection, when Wehrmacht reprisal actions in Ukraine are contrasted with such actions in Serbia:
...Wehrmacht units operating in remote areas of Ukraine shot not only Jewish men but also Jewish women and children.
These points are illustrated below with five examples of massacres drawn from the essays of Lower and Pohl referenced above. These took place in 1941 in Bila Tserkva, Zhytomyr, Lutsk, Kamienets-Podilsky and Babi Jar. (Note that each of these place names may have different spellings in other sources).

Bila Tserkva is doubly significant because the killing was requested by Field Commander Oberst, Josef Riedl, and authorised by his superior, Sixth Army general Walter von Reichenau. Ninety Jewish children had been left over in an abandoned school-type building at the edge of town after the adults had been killed. Despite objections from the local chaplains, Riedl insisted that "this brood must be stamped out" (Lower, p.243). Perpetrator testimony of the killing was provided by August Häfner and can be viewed here. Reichenau's authorisation for their killing, which occurred on August 22, 1941, was inevitable given that he harboured a deep antisemitism that was expressed, only seven weeks later, in his infamous 'Reichenau order' which stated, in part, that:
Therefore the soldier must have full understanding for the necessity of a severe but just revenge on subhuman Jewry. The Army has to aim at another purpose, i. e., the annihilation of revolts in hinterland which, as experience proves, have always been caused by Jews.
Reichenau may also have assumed that he was expressing the wish of the chief of the High Command of the Wehrmacht, William Keitel, who on September 12th called for "ruthless and energetic action, and first of all against the Jews as well, as the main bearers of Bolshevism." After the children had been killed, the 454th Division's Security Section wrote (Pohl, p.34):
There can hardly be any more talk of a Jewish question. In several places, the provisioning of Jewish children and infants left without parents sometimes created difficulties; also in this regard, however, remedial action has since been taken by the SD.
In Zhytomyr, the problem of killing children was resolved differently. As Lower (p.244) notes:
Sk4a commando leader Heinrich Huhn...recounted that at the subsequent ghetto liquidation at Zhytomyr on 19 September: "The women were allowed to hold their children in their arms" (Heinrich Huhn statement of 13 October 1965, Callsen Trial, ZSt 207 AR-Z 419/62, BAL.).
The Zhytomyr liquidation was authorised at a meeting between Blobel and FK 197 [Wehrmacht field administration commandant 197] on September 10 and is described in Operational Situation Report USSR No. 106, which shows that the Wehrmacht supplied some of the trucks:
On September 19, 1941, from 4 o'clock [a.m.], the Jewish quarter was emptied after having been surrounded and closed the previous evening by 60 members of the Ukrainian militia. The transport [deportation] was accomplished in 12 trucks, part of which had been supplied by military headquarters and part by the city administration of Zhitomir. After the transport had been carried out and the necessary preparations made with the help of 150 prisoners, 3,145 Jews were registered and shot.

After 25-30 tons of linen, clothing, shoes, dishes, etc. that had been confiscated in the course of the action were handed over to the officials of the NSV in Zhitomir for distribution. Valuables and money were conveyed to the Sonderkommando 4a.
The third example, Lutsk, was a reprisal shooting described in Operational Situation Report USSR No. 24:
On July 2 the corpses of 10 German Wehrmacht soldiers were found. In retaliation, 1160 Jews were shot by the Ukrainians with the help of one platoon of the police and one platoon of the infantry.
The fourth example, the massacre at Kamienets-Podilsky [or Kamenets-Podolsk], involved the killing of 23,600 Jews, many of whom had been expelled from Hungary. As Angrick notes:
Their fate was sealed in a meeting headed by the Quartermaster-General Wagner and the Chief of Military Administration Schmidt von Altenstadt; otherwise, the main topic discussed at the session was the transfer of the territory under military rule to the civil administration of the Reich Commissariat Ukraine. The Higher Police and SS Leader Friedrich Jeckeln (responsible for the rear lines of communication in Army Area South and the Reich Commissariat Ukraine), who did not attend the meeting, had hastily offered to solve the “problem” for all concerned by promising to “liquidate” the Jews by September 1. None of the participants objected.
The notes of this meeting, with a full list of participants, are preserved as Nuremberg document PS-197 and can be viewed here.

The final example, Babi Jar, has already been discussed in detail by Sergey in this blog. I will add four points. Firstly, the massacre was arranged in a meeting between "Jeckeln, Blobel and the city commandant, Kurt Eberhard of FK 195" (Pohl, p.35). Secondly, as Sergey's extract showed, Wehrmacht approval was noted in Operational Situation Report USSR No. 106. Thirdly, the massacre may have been pre-determined by food supply and housing shortage considerations (Gerlach, Kalkulierte Mord, p.595). Fourthly, the the ultimate Jewish death toll for Babi Jar shootings may have been higher than 33,000. Pohl (p.65n.) cites Wila Orbach (1976), "The Destruction of the Jews in the Nazi-Occupied Territories of the USSR", pp.39f., as citing a figure up to 50,000. Kruglov, on page 278 of the same book as the Pohl essay, gives a figure of 64,000 for Jews killed in the Kiev oblast in 1941.

In addition to these five major examples, some other killings with Wehrmacht involvement, noted by Pohl, can be summarized. On June 30th, a pogrom took place in Lviv after, as noted here:
The 17th Army Command...suggested the use first of all of the anti-Jewish and anti-Communist Poles living in the newly-occupied areas for self-cleansing activities.
On 3rd November in Myrohod, 168 Jews were shot by 62nd Infantry (Pohl, p.39). In Kharkov, in December, a census initiated by AOK 6 found 10,271 Jews. These were mostly killed in Drobytsky Yar ravine while a few hundred died in a gas van.

In conclusion, therefore, Wehrmacht documentation poses another problem for Holocaust deniers. There is simply so much of this material, found across a range of archives, which converges on one conclusion, that the number of people that a 'conspiracy' would have required becomes even more absurd to contemplate. The Wehrmacht is a massive source of contemporary perpetrator information that leaves no doubt that a genocide was being committed in the USSR.

1 comment:

Paolo said...

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