Tuesday, January 13, 2015

German Foreign Office knowledge of Extermination (Pt. 1)

The following article is heavily indebted to Christopher Browning's magisterial study of the German Foreign Office, the Auswärtiges Amt (hereafter AA). Browning's study focusses on the knowledge and activities of the officials of Referat D III, headed by Rademacher, which was part of Abteilung Deutschland, headed by Luther. These men were ultimately responsible to Ribbentrop but tended also to act on their own initiative, often in collusion with the SS. This dual nature gave those men unique insight into the extermination of Jews as it unfolded in various stages, first in Transnistria, the USSR, Croatia and Serbia, but then from mid-1942 in the attempts of the Germans to secure deportations of Jews from ambivalent partner states such as Italy, Romania and Hungary. Browning's study remains the most important analysis we have of what these men knew and when they discovered it.

Their acquisition of knowledge from September to November 1941 can be divided into five components. Firstly, they gained knowledge in September of a willingness by Heydrich's RSHA and the military authorities to shoot 8,000 male Jews in Serbia, as I discussed here. Secondly, they received reports of Einsatzgruppen shootings in the USSR. Luther and Rademacher received and initialed copies of the first five Activity and Situation Reports on November 17 and 18 respectively  and on November 19, Rademacher excerpted three paragraphs from the first report and sent the excerpts to Jagow (Browning, p.73). Moreover, back on September 5th, Luther's rival Weizsäcker had been informed that "we don’t treat the Jews with kid gloves and that in the east already many a Jew no longer lives" (quoted by Browning here).

Thirdly, Luther knew by the end of October that Heydrich had blocked the emigration of Spanish Jews residing in France to Spanish Morocco because, in Heydrich's words, "these Jews would also be too much out of the direct reach of the measures for a basic solution to the Jewish question to be enacted after the war" (see Browning's footnote 79 here). Rademacher knew, via RSHA official Friedrich Suhr, that Heydrich wished to send certain unfit categories of Jews, such as surviving Jewish women and children in Serbia, to "reception camps in the east", which clearly would not favour their survival (footnote 81 here). In addition, there was the likelihood that Jews being deported by Antonescu to Transnistria were going to die in huge numbers. This was acknowledged in a file memo by Richter which stated that: 
According to information today from director General Lecca, 110,000 Jews are being evacuated from Bukovina and Bessarabia into two forests in the Bug River Area. As far as he could learn, this action is based upon an order issued by Marshal Antonescu. Purpose of the action is the liquidation of these Jews (PS-3319, NCA VI, p.34 and IMT Ninety-Second Day: Wednesday, 27th March, 1946 (Part 2 of 10))
Moreover, some knowledge of mass killing existed two months earlier because on September 1st, Killinger informed Luther that 4,000 Jews had been killed in Jassy (Iasi) and that the Romanians were carrying out "unheard-of persecution" (Browning, p.54, citing NG-4962; also in Hilberg and Gilbert). 

Fifthly, Rademacher had received a letter dated October 23rd from Paul Wurm, foreign editor of Der Stürmer:
Dear Party Comrade Rademacher!
On my return trip from Berlin I met an old party comrade, who works in the east on the settlement of the Jewish question. In the near future many of the Jewish vermin will be exterminated through special measures (note 82)
 These five forms of knowledge were the understanding that Luther took to the Wannsee conference on January 20th, 1942, where (according to Eichmann's minutes) he heard Heydrich state that:
Under proper guidance, in the course of the final solution the Jews are to be allocated for appropriate labor in the East. Able-bodied Jews, separated according to sex, will be taken in large work columns to these areas for work on roads, in the course of which action doubtless a large portion will be eliminated by natural causes.

The possible final remnant will, since it will undoubtedly consist of the most resistant portion, have to be treated accordingly, because it is the product of natural selection and would, if released, act as a the seed of a new Jewish revival (see the experience of history.) 
Both Luther and Rademacher inferred from Wannsee that Europe's Jews had, in the main, to be exterminated before the end of the war, which at that point the Germans still expected to win within a year or so. Rademacher made clear this understanding on March 24th, 1942, when he wrote Schroeder the following:
The stronger the German victory looms, the greater and more urgent becomes the tasks of the Referat, because the Jewish question must be solved in the course of the war, for only so can it be solved without a world-wide outcry (Browning, p.83, citing PA, Inland II 347/3, Rademacher to Schroeder, 24.3.42).
The timing of this note could not be more significant. Deportations to Belzec were just commencing and, just three days later, Goebbels would write that:
The Jews are now being pushed out of the General Government, beginning near Lublin, to the East. A pretty barbaric procedure is being applied here, and it is not to be described in any more detail, and not much is left of the Jews themselves. In general one may conclude that 60% of them must be liquidated, while only 40% can be put to work. The former Gauleiter of Vienna [Globocnik], who is carrying out this action, is doing it pretty prudently and with a procedure that doesn't work too conspicuously. The Jews are being punished barbarically, to be sure, but they have fully deserved it. The prophesy that the Führer issued to them on the way, for the eventuality that they started a new world war, is beginning to realise itself in the most terrible manner. One must not allow any sentimentalities to rule in these matters. If we did not defend ourselves against them, the Jews would annihilate us. It is a struggle for life and death between the Aryan race and the Jewish bacillus. No other government and no other regime could muster the strength for a general solution of the question. Here too, the Führer is the persistent pioneer and spokesman of a radical solution, which is demanded by the way things are and thus appears to be unavoidable. Thank God, during the war we now have a whole series of possibilities which were barred to us in peacetime. We must exploit them. The ghettos which are becoming available in the General Government are now being filled with the Jews who are being pushed out of the Reich, and after a certain time the process is then to renew itself here. Jewry has nothing to laugh about...(Evans, here, citing E. Fröhlich (ed.), Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, Teil II, Vol. 3 (Munich, New Providence, London, Paris, 1994), p. 561.)
Back in October, Luther had understood from Heydrich that planning consisted of "measures for a basic solution to the Jewish question to be enacted after the war"; by the last 10 days of March 1942, it was understood by both Rademacher and Goebbels that it had to be enacted before war's end, along the parameters laid out at Wannsee.

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