Thursday, December 08, 2011

Hilberg, Serbia and the Schäfer Trial

Hilberg's writing on Serbia can be found on-line here. The 1953 trial of Schäfer can be found here. Below I summarize their major findings and sources.

Extermination in Serbia escalated from shooting reprisals in the autumn of 1941 to the use of gas vans in the spring of 1942, the latter coinciding with the use of gas vans at Chelmno and at Maly Trostinets. In mid-August, 1941, Harald Turner, the chief of military administration in Serbia requested (via Benzler) that all Jews be deported down the Danube to Rumania or the General Government. This request was declined, but a month later, Turner persuaded Benzler to make an appeal to Rademacher, requesting deportation of the Jews to Poland or the USSR. Rademacher recorded the reply that he received in a handwritten note that was subsequently presented in evidence at the Eichmann trial.
In the opinion of Sturmbannführer Eichmann, RSHA IVD4, there is no possibility to take them to Russia or to the Generalgouvernement. Even Jews from Germany cannot be accommodated there. Eichmann proposes to kill them by shooting [source: T/874].
In the meantime, the Wehrmacht, under the command of Böhme, began to shoot Jews under the pretext of the need to fill 1:100 reprisal quotas. Such reprisals were not, however, for crimes committed by Jews but were instead inflicted on Jews in lieu of Serb partisans who had not been captured in sufficient numbers to meet the quotas. Turner admitted that this was morally wrong in a private letter dated October 17, 1941, sent to Hildebrandt:
In the last 8 days, I have had 2,000 Jews and 200 Gypsies shot dead, following the quota of 1:100 for brutally murdered German soldiers, and a further 2,200, also nearly all Jews, will be shot in the next 8 days. That is not pleasant work! But it must be done, in order to make it clear to people what it means to attack a German soldier, while at the same time, the Jewish question solves itself most quickly in this way. Actually, it is wrong, if taken literally, that for murdered Germans, for whom the ratio of 1:100 should come at the expense of the Serbs, 100 Jews will now be shot, but they are the ones we happened to have in the camp...[source: NO-5810].
On October 26, Turner ordered that “Jews and Gypsies” were “a danger to public order and safety” and that all male Jews and Gypsies would therefore be put “at the disposal of the troops as hostages.” [NOKW-802].

The background to Turner's order was a meeting on October 20 in Belgrade between Turner, Rademacher, Suhr and Fuchs, in which it was decided that male Jews would be held as hostages and gradually killed to meet reprisal quotas against Serb (non-Jew) partisans, whilst evacuation of women & children 'to the East' was agreed for a future unspecified date. However, this evacuation did not take the form of expulsion, but instead took the form of gas vans the following spring, which Turner falsely claimed credit for in his letter to Wolff:
Already some months ago, I shot dead all the Jews I could get my hands on in this area, concentrated all the Jewish women and children in a camp and with the help of the SD got my hands on a "delousing van," that in about 14 days to 4 weeks will have brought about the definitive clearing out of the camp, which in any event since the arrival of Meyssner and the turning over of this camp to him, was continued by him. Then the time is come in which the Jewish officers to be found in prisoner of war camps under the Geneva Convention find out against our will about their no longer existing kinfolk and that could easily lead to complications [source: here].
Turner implicitly admitted that ‘Entlausungswagen’ was a euphemism for gas van by placing the term in inverted commas.

The Schäfer trial cites the military reports showing how the Semlin camp's population was gradually reduced:
In der Meldung vom 10.3.1942 heisst es unter VI: "Im Judenlager Semlin befanden sich am 26.2. 5780 Personen (Meist Frauen und Kinder)." Obwohl laut Meldung vom 19.3.1942 noch weitere 500 Juden von Kosovska-Mitrovica nach Semlin transportiert wurden, die in den bisherigen Zahlen nicht einbegriffen sind, verringerte sich der Lagerbestand in der Zeit vom 26.2.1942 bis zum 25.3.1942 auf 5293 Juden. (Vergl. Meldung vom 10.3. und 31.3.1942). Laut Meldung vom 20.4.1942 befanden sich am 15.4.1942 im Lager noch 4005 Juden. Diese Zahl sank gemäss Meldung vom 30.4.1942 auf 2974 Juden. In der Zehntagesmeldung vom 1.Juli 1942 werden Juden nicht mehr erwähnt.
On June 9th, Schäfer reported back to Berlin noting that the two drivers of the "special Saurer truck", Goetz and Meyer, "had carried out their special task" [PS-501].

Hilberg cites most of the above material and concludes by noting:
When Generaloberst Lohr took over as Oberbefehlshaber Sudost in August 1942, Staatsrat Turner jotted down a few notes for a persnal report to his new chief. In this report Turner itemized all the achievements of the previous administration. With a considerate satisfaction he wrote down a unique accomplishment: "Serbia only country in which Jewish question and Gypsy question solved."

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