Monday, December 26, 2011

Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka. Holocaust Denial and Operation Reinhard. Chapter 4: So Where Did They Go? “Resettlement” to the East (4). The Ostland.

The Ostland

A recent article by Kues argues that RK Ostland contained four “transit points for at least part of the large numbers of Jews deported east via the "extermination camps" in Poland.”[105] These transit points were the camps Vievis, Vaivara, Salaspils and Maly Trostenets. However, this contradicts the assertion in Sobibór that the Jews deported to the Ostland arrived “w/o a stop-over in any camp.”[106] In Treblinka, M&G had stated that: “It is valid to suggest that the direct transports to Minsk arrived first in Warsaw and ran over the Siedlce-Czeremcha-Wolkowusk line, so that they were travelling past Treblinka at a distance of approximately 80 km (Siedlce railway station) and about 140 km from Sobibor.”[107] Kues and his colleagues are therefore fundamentally split on how the deportees arrived in the Ostland.
MGK are unaware of the literature concerning the mass unemployment and starvation in Belorussian cities. The need for skilled labor was very low because German air attacks and the Soviets in retreat had destroyed, dismantled and relocated many factories and the Germans did not replace the capacity. Thus in Mogilev, starvation forced skilled non-Jews into the countryside, whilst Jews starved in Vitebsk.[108] It is notable that, in ignoring this literature, MGK also display amnesia towards the earlier generation of deniers, who had embraced Walter Sanning’s thesis that the retreating Soviets deployed a “scorched earth” policy. How does “scorched earth” support resettled Jews?
Overcrowding and food shortages were two of the reasons that Kube and Lohse fiercely resisted deportation into their area and only relented when it became clear (as discussed in Chapter 2) that deported Jews would eventually be killed. Documents written by Kube and Lohse are used selectively by MGK. They thus omit Lohse’s statement of August 6, 1942 that "Only a small part of the Jews are still alive; umpteen thousand have gone."[109] On July 31, 1942, Kube protested to Lohse about the arrival of 1,000 Warsaw Jews in Minsk and insisted that further transports from the General Government would be liquidated.[110] This was at a time when many deported Reich Jews were in transit ghettos in the General Government. M&G perversely interpret Kube’s protest as supporting resettlement but they do this by citing an alternative document from the same date in which the threat to liquidate the Jews was apparently omitted.[111]
Kues contradicts himself with regard to proving that Polish Jews were resettled in the Ostland. On the one hand, he admits in his initial article that it is difficult to prove that Polish Jews did not arrive in the Ostland by means other than deportation:
Hersh Smolar, the Jewish partisan leader operating near Minsk whose memoirs are discussed below (Section 3.3.3.), was one of the Polish Jews who had fled to Belarus in 1939 and remained there at the time of the German invasion. It is thus very difficult to use references to the presence of Polish Jews in the occupied eastern territories as a mean to verify the revisionist hypothesis. For their presence to be of significance, the mentioned Jews would have to be reported as deported from Poland to the east from December 1941 onward, following the opening of the first “extermination camp” Chełmno (Kulmhof) in the Warthegau District.[112]  
On the other hand, Kues totally disregards this logic in his subsequent articles by insisting that “[Grünberg’s] statement that most of the Jews in the camp at the time of his arrival were Polish implies one or more undocumented Jewish transports from Poland.” He also overlooks the fact that his witnesses who claim to have seen Jews arriving “straight from Poland”[113] may simply have referred to Wilno, which was in Poland at the start of the war. Moreover, his reliance on such witnesses is of course hypocritical, because MGK insist elsewhere that enquirers “must recognize the necessity of comparing witness accounts with the available material evidence.”[114] There is, of course, no material evidence of resettlement; otherwise Kues would not be reliant on these witnesses.
Kues uses his witnesses in a highly dishonest way. For example, his use of Grünberg[115] ignores his account of selections (including his wife’s) and the fact that he heard people being shot.[116] He disregards witness anomalies (which he would normally view as proof of unreliability) when it suits his purposes to do so. For example, Moses L. Rage stated in a written testimony to a Soviet commission that in the spring of 1942 or later "there began to arrive in Riga a series of trains with Jews from Poland, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Holland and other countries." Because no Danish Jews were deported to extermination camps, Kues reasons that the witness "could have mistaken Norwegian Jews for Danish Jews."[117] Kues never shows such latitude towards testimonies describing extermination, so this is a clear double standard, as is the fact that he is hereby relying on Soviet sources that he has dismissed elsewhere.[118]
Kues’ reliance on Vaivara and Vievis ignores the fact that the Nazis shot such Jews when they retreated. For example, around 2,000 were killed at Klooga, where their remains were photographed and published in western sources soon after liberation. Foreign journalists were shown the unburied corpses of partially burned victims on October 2, 1944. The New York Times journalist W.H. Lawrence wrote that he had personally “seen and counted recognizable parts of 438 complete and partly burned bodies of men, women and children.”[119] Kues himself is forced to rely on a mass grave witness account by M. Morein in which “while looking for the corpses of his parents in 1946 near the village of Kukas near Krustpils, [Morein] discovered, in a mass grave, corpses whose clothes bore French labels.”[120] However, Kues’ own secondary source reveals that these Jews were actually killed in 1941:
At that time, all the Jews of Viesite, together with those of Jekabpils (Jakobstadt) and Nereta, were murdered by an execution squad of the Perkonkrusts in the village of Kukas.[121]
Kues commits another distortion when citing a diarist in Lithuania, Herman Kruk, specifically his sentence, “Today a rumour is circulating that there are about 19,000 Dutch Jews in Vievis.”[122] This is an isolated line in Kruk’s diary, supported only by a related entry about two trainloads of objects, “apparently from the Dutch Jews.”[123] Given that the real fate of Dutch Jews has been copiously documented, it is bizarre that Kues should regard Kruk’s obviously equivocal language – “rumour”, “apparently” – as firm evidence of anything except the existence of that which Kruk himself defines as “gossip.”[124]
Given his propensity for schoolboy errors such as these, it is incredible that Kues should then refer to Gerlach as an “armchair historian”[125], when it is in fact Kues who cannot grasp the basics of the historian’s craft.
The earlier work of Mattogno and Graf shows a high level of ignorance concerning Nazi ghetto policy in the Ostland. This leads them to interpret Nazi ghetto statistics and Riga-Stutthof transport data in a misleading way. M&G’s Einsatzgruppen chapter in Treblinka discusses a report by Einsatzgruppe A that lists the number of Jews remaining in three ghettos:
·  Kauen approximately 15,000 Jews 
·  Vilna 15,000 Jews 
·  Schaulen 4,500 Jews.[126]
They commit two howlers when interpreting these figures. Firstly, they compare the figures with those for Lithuania in the 1929 Soviet census, but they forget that Wilno Voivodship was not in Soviet Lithuania in 1929, but appeared instead in the 1931 Polish census (108,900 Jews) and was swelled by other Polish Jewish refugees in 1939-40. 
Secondly, they compare the figures for Vilna [Wilno] with a census of the Vilna ghetto from May 1942 that lists 3,693 children in a population of 14,545. They conclude that the survival of the children disproves that there was any order to shoot the unfit. However, the Jäger Report cites the same figures for the three ghettos and explains clearly why these children survived:
I can state today that the goal of solving the Jewish problem for Lithuania has been achieved by Einsatzkommando 3. In Lithuania, there are no more Jews, other than the Work Jews, including their families. They are:
      In Schaulen    around   4,500      In Kauen    “     15,000      In Wilna         “     15,000I also wanted to kill these Work Jews, including their families, which however brought upon me acrimonious challenges from the civil administration (the Reichskommisar) and the army and caused the prohibition: the Work Jews and their families are not to be shot![127]
Jäger simply confirms what was known in the ghetto itself: in October 1941, the Nazis issued yellow permits (Gelbschein) that entitled 3,000 essential workers to select three family members who would be temporarily spared from killing actions.[128] Moreover, Jäger advocated that the males among these worker Jews should be sterilized, thereby continuing the sterilization discourse that had begun with Wetzel back in 1939.
In the same chapter M&G point out that, in Minsk, "In a list from 1943 (month not given) of 878 Jews from the ghetto of Minsk, there are...about a dozen elderly persons."[129] However, this simply confirms that old people were disproportionately targeted for liquidation, because 12/878 is not a ratio that would exist in a normal civilian population.
M&G’s subsequent incredulity about the inclusion of children and the elderly in evacuation transports from Riga to Stutthof can therefore be dismissed as the result of ignorance. Furthermore, the inclusion of those children actually argues in favour of a Nazi policy of total evacuation that refutes MGK’s assumption in Sobibór that the Nazis failed to almost totally evacuate the Ostland when they retreated. The Nazis did not leave behind hundreds of thousands of Jews for the Soviets to find.
M&G’s treatment of Riga, Minsk and Wilno can be contrasted with sources concerning those cities that have mostly been in the public domain since the Nuremberg and Eichmann trials. In April 1943, the Foreign Office representative in Riga, Adolf von Windecker, pointed out to his colleagues in Berlin that, in the Ostland, “the local population, as is known, has in spontaneous actions in connection with the arrival of the German troops removed numerous Jews, amounting to an almost total extermination of Jewry in some places”, and that many thousands of local and Reich Jews had been shot in the Riga region over time [viele tausend der hiesigen und reichsdeutschen Juden im Bereich von Riga im Verlauf der Zeit erschossen worden sind]. He concluded that “it seems very questionable whether any Jews can be considered for exchange purposes, without the executions carried out here being thereby used against us.”[130] This echoed a reply given by Günther the previous November to a request, forwarded to him from the Italian General Consul Giuriatti in Danzig, that the ‘Jewess’ of Italian citizenship, Jenni Cozzi, be returned from the Riga ghetto to Italy. Günther asserted that she had to remain in the ghetto “because it must certainly be feared that the Jewess Cozzi will exploit the conditions in the Riga ghetto for purposes of atrocity propaganda in Italy.”[131]
In January 1943, a former colleague, on leave from Wilno, told Karl Dürkefälden about the almost total extermination of the city's Jewish community: only 10% of the population was left.[132] German documentation shows that Jews from the Wilno region were subjected to a “special treatment” that claimed over 4,000 victims in early April, 1943.[133] On May 15, 1943, Rademacher’s successor von Thadden noted:
Mr. Legation Counsellor Rademacher informed me that on occasion of a visit by Fascist representatives in Minsk Gauleiter Kube had also shown a church that had been used by the Communists for worldly purposes. Asked by the Italians what the little parcels and suitcases piled up there meant, Kube had explained that these were the only leftovers of Jews deported to Minsk. Thereafter Kube had shown the Italians a gas chamber in which the killing of the Jews was allegedly carried out. Supposedly, the Fascists had been most deeply shocked. Mr. Rademacher learned of this incident through Mr. Koeppen, adjutant of Reichsleiter Rosenberg. In his opinion General Consul Windecker in Riga is likely to also be informed about this incident, for as far as he, Rademacher, could remember, the incident had occurred on occasion of the Fascist representatives sent east to take care of Italian workers.[134]
The gas chamber in this highly reliable official wartime hearsay account, concerning senior German officials discussing recent events, was contained in the gas van that was mentioned by the documents and Becker’s testimony discussed in Chapter 2. The source is too high up the political chain to be construed as rumour, and every link in this chain had nothing to gain by inventing the method of murder.
By June 1943, most Jews in the Ostland were dead but the Nazis were still ruthlessly hunting down non-Jewish partisans. Their methods led to a complaint from Lohse to Rosenberg that compared the methods used against bandits with those that had been used in the ‘special treatment’ of Jews:
The fact that Jews receive special treatment requires no further discussion. However, it appears hardly believable that this is done in the way described in the report of the General Commissioner of 1 June 1943. What is Katyn against that? Imagine only that these occurrences would become known to the other side and be exploited by them! Most likely such propaganda would have no effect only because people who hear and read about it simply would not be ready to believe it. Also the fight against the bandits it taking forms that give reason for much concern if pacification and exploitation of the various regions is the goal of our policy. Thus the dead banditry suspects, which according to the report dd. 5.6.43 from Operation "Cottbus" number 5,000, could in my opinion with few exceptions have been used for labour service in the Reich.
It shall not be denied that due to communication difficulties and generally in such mopping-up operations it is very hard to tell friend from foe. But it should nevertheless be possible to avoid cruelties and to bury those liquidated. To lock men, women, and children into barns and to set fire to them does not appear to be a suitable method of combating bands, even if it is desired to exterminate the population. This method is not worthy of the German cause and hurts our reputation severely.[135]
Lohse also passed to Rosenberg a report by prison warden Günther on the killing of a few remaining Reich Jews in the Minsk prison and the removal of gold from their teeth after death.[136]
The demographic consequences of Nazi killing actions are documented in population statistics produced by the German administration. In January 1942, Stahlecker reported that The systematic mopping up of the Eastern Territories embraced, in accordance with the basic orders, the complete removal if possible, of Jewry” and that “This goal has been substantially attained-with the exception of White Russia-as a result of the execution up to the present time of 229,052 Jews”[137] An Operational Situation Report of the same month revealed that 139,000 Jews remained alive in GK Weißruthenien:
In White Ruthenia the purge of Jews is in full swing. The number of Jews in the Territory handed over to the civil authorities up to now, amounts to 139,000. 32,210 Jews were shot meanwhile by the Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police and the SD.[138]
On August 26, 1942, Fenz estimated that 95,000 Jews had thus far been “shot under martial law” whilst 6,000 had escaped to the partisans.[139]
KdS Strauch reported a working population of 27,660 Jews remaining in White Ruthenia on November 6, 1942. Kube informed Lohse on October 23, 1942 that "In the course of the first year of civil administration, Jewry in the general district [White Ruthenia] has been reduced to about 30,000 in the entire general district."[140] In a meeting of Gebeitskommissars on April 8-10, 1943, Strauch explained the problems he had encountered in attempting to complete the extermination of the GK’s Jews, but nonetheless confirmed that 130,000 had been killed:
When the civil administration arrived it already found economic enterprises operated by the Wehrmacht aided by Jews. At a time when the Bielorussians wanted to murder the Jews, the Wehrmacht cultivated them. In that way Jews reached key positions and it is difficult today to remove them completely, for then the enterprises are liable to be destroyed, something we cannot allow ourselves. I am of the opinion that we can confidently say that of the 150,000, 130,000 have already disappeared. 22,000 are still alive in the area of the Gebietskommissariat.[141]
He suggested that the surviving 22,000 could be reduced by 50%:
I therefore want to request of you that, at least, the Jew disappear from any place where he is superfluous. We cannot agree to Jewish women polishing shoes...We will cut the number down to half without causing economic difficulties.
In the same month, the Head of the German Security Police and Security Service in Lithuania informed the RSHA that 44,584 Jews were left in the Lithuanian General District of the Ostland - including 23,950 in the Vilnius ghetto, 15,875 in the Kaunas/Kovno ghetto and 4,759 in the Šiauliai ghetto - of which about 30,000 Jews doing jobs needed by the German army[142]. The surviving population of Latvia as of January 1943 was given as between 13,584 and 14,784.[143] Estonia had been declared “free of Jews” on January 14, 1942.[144]
An Ostministerium conference report of July 13, 1943 stated that the Jewish population of White Ruthenia was 16,000, consisting of 8,500 for Minsk and 7,500 for Lida.[145] The total for the whole of the Ostland was 72,000 (Wilno 20,000, Kovno 17,000, Siauliai 5,000, and Riga 15,000). Of this 72,000, the conference stated that 22,000 were to be ‘resettled’ and 50,000 placed in SS concentration camps, as per Himmler’s order of June 21, 1943.[146] Kube requested an exemption for 4,000 Jews employed by the Wehrmacht in Minsk, but Himmler ordered that these Jews be sent “to Lublin or to another place.”[147] On July 20, 1943, Strauch wrote a file note on Kube’s protest about the execution (which he referred to in different paragraphs as Sonderbehandlung and Executionen) of 70 Jews being used for labour by Kube.[148] There was clearly no option to keep these Jews in the Ostland, so it must be concluded that Himmler’s intention was to totally clear White Ruthenia of Jews by sending them westwards to the General Government. This documentation therefore converges with the evidence that, of the 15,500 Jews remaining in Minsk and Lida, the vast majority were deported to the Lublin region between August and October, 1943.  Gerlach cites a testimony by Isselhorst giving a figure of 12,000-13,000 deported from “Minsk and Baranovichi”. Kues[149] overlooks Gerlach’s footnote clarifying that Isselhorst probably meant Lida, not Baranovichi.[150] Isselhorst’s testimony therefore converges with the demographic data that Kues is attempting to deny.


[105] Thomas Kues, ‘The Maly Trostenets "Extermination Camp"-A Preliminary Historiographical Survey, Part 2,’ Inconvenient History, 3/2, summer 2011.
[106] MGK, Sobibór, p.353.
[107] M&G, Treblinka, p.245.
[108] Gerlach, ‘German Economic Interests’, pp.210-39.
[109] Stenographisches Protokoll ueber Besprechung Görings mit den Reichskommissaren und den Militaerbefehlshabern der besetzten Gebiete, 6.8.1942, USSR-170, IMT XXXIX, pp.384-412;  Gerlach, 'Bedeutung der deutschen Ernaehrungspolitik', pp.216-17.
[110] Kube an Lohse, 31.7.42, 3428-PS, IMT XXXII, pp.279-82, also facsimiled in Weinreich, Hitler's Professors, pp.188-190.
[111] M&G, Treblinka, p.278.
[112] Kues, ‘Evidence, Part I,’ 2.2.1.
[113] Kues, ‘Evidence, Part 2,’ 3.3.14.
[114] MGK, Sobibór, p.106.
[115] Kues, ‘Evidence, Part 2,’ 3.3.10.
[116] Christoph Lind, Bericht von Isaak Grünberg über seine Haft in Maly Trostinec, “... sind wir doch in unserer Heimat als Landmenschen aufgewachsen...”Der “Landsprengel” der Israelitischen Kultusgemeinde St. Pölten: Jüdische Schicksale zwischen Wienerwald und Erlauf. St. Pölten: Inst. für Geschichte der Juden in Österreich, 2002.
[117] Kues, ‘Evidence, Part 2,’ 3.3.12.
[118] Kues, ‘The Maly Trostenets "Extermination Camp."’
[119] New York Times, 6.10.44, p.6.
[120] Kues, ‘Evidence, Part 2,’ 3.3.13.
[121] Bernhard Press, The Murder of the Jews in Latvia 1941-1945. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2000, p.49.
[122] Kues, ‘Evidence, Part 1,’ 3.3.1.
[123] Herman Kruk, The last days of the Jerusalem of Lithuania. Chronicles from the Vilna Ghetto and the camps 1939-1944. Yale University Press, New Haven/London, 2002, p.518.
[124] Kruk, Last Days, p.430.
[125] Kues, ‘The Maly Trostenets "Extermination Camp.”’
[126] M&G, Treblinka, p.209, citing Einsatzgruppe A, Gesamtbericht vom 16 Oktober 1941 bis 31 Januar 1942, RGVA, 500-4-92, pp.57-59.
[127] Gesamtaufstellung der im Bereich des EK. 3 bis zum 1. Dez. 1941 durchgeführten Execution. RGVA 500-1-25.
[128] Herman Kruk, Benjamin Harshav (ed.), The Last Days of the Jerusalem of Lithuania: Chronicles from the Vilna Ghetto and the Camps 1939-1944. New Haven: Yale University, 2002, p.150. Mattogno also ignores evidence that Wehrmacht officers used the tactic of ‘salvation through work in Wilno; see the essays by Kim C. Priemel, ‘Wirtschaftskrieg und ‘Arbeitsjuden’. Möglichkeiten zur Rettung von Juden in Vilnius, 1941-1944’ in Wolfram Wette (ed), Zivilcourage. Empörte, Helfer und Retter aus Wehrmacht, Polizei und SS. Frankfurt am Main, 2003, pp.305-322 and ‘Into the grey zone: Wehrmacht bystanders, German labor market policy and the Holocaust’, Journal of Genocide Research, 10/3 2008, pp.389-411.
[129] M&G, Treblinka, pp.214-15.
[130] Windecker an Auswärtigen Amt Berlin, 5.4.43, NG-2652; T/311.
[131] Günther an Auswärtigen Amt Berlin, 10.11.42, T/348.
[132] Karl Dürkefälden, Schreiben, wie es wirklich war...: Aufzeichnungen Karl Dürkefäldens aus den Jahren 1933–1945, edited by Herbert Obenaus and Sibylle Obenaus, Hannover, 1985, pp.107ff.
[133] Arad, Ghetto in Flames, p.365, citing E. Rozauskas et al (ed), Documents Accuse, Vilnius, 1970, pp. 271-272.
[134] Auswärtigen Amt Berlin, 15.5.43, T/341.
[135] Lohse an Rosenberg, 18.6.43, R-135, IMT VIII, p.205.
[136] Günther an Kube, 31.5.43, R-135, IMT VIII, p.208.
[137] Stahlecker, Report of Einsatzgruppe A, n.d., 2273-PS.
[138] EM 155, 14.1.42, NO-3279.
[139] Hauptkommissariat Baranowitschi to GK Weißruthenien, Arbeitspolitische Fragen, 26.8.42, NG-1315; cf. Haberer, ‘The German police, Part II,’ p.271n.; Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde, p.706.
[140] Strauch an BdS Ostland, 6.11.1942, LVCA 1026-1-3, p.331; Angrick/Klein, Riga, p.376.
[141] Protokoll über die Tagung der Gebietskommissare, Hauptabteilungsleiter und Abteilungsleiter des. Generalkommissars in Minsk vom 8.April bis 10.April 1943, NARB 370-1-1263, pp.126-45; cf. Shalom Cholawsky, The Jews of Bielorussia during World War II, Amsterdam, 1998, p.64; Haberer, ‘German Police’, Part I, p.13.
[142] Arũnas Bubnys, ‘The Holocaust in Lithuania: An Outline of the Major Stages and their Results’, in: Alvydas Nikžentaitis, Stefan Schreiner & Darius Staliũnas (ed.), The Vanished World of Lithuanian Jews, 2004 Editions Rodopi B.V., Amsterdam – New York, p.216.
[143] Angrick/Klein, Riga, p.369.
[144] EM 155, 14.1.42, NO-3279; cf. Weiss-Wendt, Murder Without Hatred.
[145] Sitzungsvermerk v. 20 August 1943 des ORR Hermann über eine Tagung am 13.7.43 im RmbO zum Thema: Arbeitseinsatzfragen des Reiches unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Verhältnisse in den besetzten Ostgebieten, NO-1831, NMT XIII, pp.1018-19; cf. Safrian, Eichmann’s Men, p.124; Yitzhak Arad, Ghetto In Flames, Ktav, 1982, p.402.
[146] Der Reichsführer SS an HSSPF Ostland, SS-WVHA, 21.6.1943, NO-2403.
[147] Memorandum by Gottlob Berger, 14.7.43, NO-3370; cf. Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde, p.737ff.
[148] Strauch, Aktenvermerk, Minsk, 20.7.43, NO-4317 and  T/1413; also published in Helmut Heiber (ed), ‘Aus den Akten des Gauleiters Kube’, VfZ 4, 1956, pp.65-92
[149] Kues, ‘The Maly Trostenets "Extermination Camp”’.
[150] Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde, p.742  n.1285.

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