Monday, September 25, 2017

Debunking the Partisan Meme: 1. The Killers' Racial Mission

Author: Jonathan Harrison
When deniers lamely seek to excuse German shooting policies in the USSR, one of their most common tactics is find references to partisans in the shooting reports and to take at face value the claim that Jews were shot because of their support for these partisans. For example, in 2013, Mattogno acknowledged Kube's report of July 1942 that 55,000 Jews had been shot in White Ruthenia in the last 10 weeks but claimed that the shootings were "motivated by the anti-partisan war and not by an extermination order of Jews for being Jews."[1]. This blog article debunks that claim in two parts. The first demonstrates that the Nazi leadership, Wehrmacht commanders and individual shooters often understood their mission to be a racial one: a war of extermination against Jews as a race. The second shows how the content of shooting reports betrays a racial motive and is inconsistent in its treatment of Jews as partisans.

Mass shootings were most often framed by the term "the Jewish Question" and then eventually "the Final Solution of the Jewish Question." Deniers treat this phrase as simply meaning deportation in the context of partisan war, but the documents show otherwise. On July 8, 1941, two military commanders, von Leeb and von Roques, discussed shootings and the latter lamented the fact that "the Jewish Question could hardly be solved in this manner. It would most reliably be solved by sterilizing all Jewish males."[2] This makes no sense if the Jewish Question was merely a political or military one rather than a racial one. Sterilization would not address the partisan threat, nor would it assist evacuation. These commanders therefore clearly understood the Jewish Question to be the biological elimination of Jews.

The importance of antisemitism to the German understanding of the USSR was made clear by Hitler himself when, on October 2, 1941, he made a proclamation to the troops in the East which stated that the capitalist and Bolshevist systems both consisted of "Jews and Jews alone"[3], a theme that he had also emphasized in Mein Kampf, showing that this thought had preoccupied him for two decades before he launched Barbarossa.[4] Similarly, Himmler had referred to Communism as a "Jewish-Bolshevistic revolution of sub-humans" in 1936[5], and a radio broadcast by Fritzsche on July 7, 1941, depicted Barbarossa as a war in which "culture, civilization, and human decency make a stand against the diabolical principle of a sub-human world."[6]

Antisemitism was also expressed in the Wehrmacht before Barbarossa. On July 22, 1940, von Kuechler, commander of the 18th Army in Poland, wrote to his generals that "The final ethnic solution of the ethnic struggle which has been raging on the eastern border for centuries calls for unique harsh measures."[7]

The component of antisemitism in these killings is evident from the language used. The Reichenau order, for example, called for a "severe but just revenge on subhuman Jewry."[8] This language cannot be equated with a motivation that purely targeted Jews as Bolsheviks and partisans. Antisemitism converged, in the East, with a military culture in which vengeance actions were already inclined to seek unlimited total solutions against racially inferior populations, a process that has been traced back to Germany's imperial policies in its colonies in the early years of the century.[9]

Above all, antisemitism was used to fuel killing via the incendiary rhetoric of Hitler, which filtered through to the SS and military by many channels, not just of command but also training and propaganda. Hitler's intentions in July 1941 can be reconstructed from three sources. On July 8, he stated that Moscow and Leningrad were to be erased so that its people would not need to be fed.[10]On July 16, Hitler observed that "This partisan war again has some advantage for us; it enables us to eradicate everyone who opposes us."[11] The looming global war gave Hitler the opportunity to define any Jew as a partisan whom Germany had the right to treat accordingly. On July 17, he advised Kvaternik that one had to annihilate (vernichten) "criminal and anti-social elements" and also stated that Jews could be sent to Madagascar or Siberia. He also expressed his approval of the "bloody revenge" carried out on Jews in the Baltic states: 
The Jews were the scourge of humanity, the Lithuanians as well as the Estonians are now taking bloody revenge on them...When even one state, for any reason whatsoever, tolerated one single Jewish family in its midst, this would constitute a source of bacilli touching off a new infection. Once there were no more Jews in Europe there would be nothing to interfere with the unification of the European nations. It makes no difference whether Jews are sent to Siberia or Madagascar. He would approach every state with this demand.[12] 
Hitler was not willing to tolerate "one single Jewish family" remaining alive in Europe. He was willing to approve of murder ("bloody revenge") to achieve this aim, provided it could be instigated by native killers. It is hard to believe that Jews sent to Siberia would be allowed to live. It is in this context that Goebbels' diary entry for August 19, 1941, should be read. It quoted Hitler’s comment that Jews deported to the USSR "will be worked over in the harsh climate there." The following day Goebbels noted a further Hitler comment:
As for the Jewish question, today in any case one could say that a man like Antonescu, for example, proceeds much more radically in this manner than we have done until now. But I will not rest or be idle until we too have gone all the way with the Jews.[13]
Hitler knew that Antonescu’s Rumanian police had been liquidating Jews since July, in co-operation with Einsatzgruppe D, and driving those unfit to work into Transnistria, where most would starve or be shot. For example, Einsatzkommando 11a reported that "On the evening of July 10, Rumanian military authorities rounded up some 400 Jews of all ages, including men, and women, in order to shoot them in retaliation for attacks on Rumanian military personnel. Fault was found, however in the lengthy technical planning."[14] Goebbels also, in the same diary entry cited above, noted the reductions in rations for non-working Jews by quoting Lenin: "he who does not work, shall not eat."

The civilian administration understood these goals, even if it was occasionally more squeamish about the methods. The phrase "Jewish Question" was clearly understood in racial terms by Rosenberg when he stated on August 5, 1941, that "The Jewish problem is the most important of all; to date ten thousand Jews have been eliminated by the Lithuanian population; executions continue every night, labor camps have been established and Jewish women will be included in the labor force."[15] Although this shows that Rosenberg was not yet clued in to total extermination, it is clear that shooting was being used to reduce a problem that was specifically "Jewish", not partisan. The Einsatzgruppen, meanwhile, had total extermination already in mind. Einsatzgruppe A leader Stahlecker advocated on August 6, 1941, "an almost one hundred percent immediate cleansing of the entire Ostland of Jews" taking advantage of "the radical possibilities for dealing with the Jewish Problem" that had "emerged for the first time in the Ostland." He referred to "general orders from above that cannot be discussed in writing," and stated that, unlike in the General Government, "Perspectives derived from the need to use the Jews for labour will simply not be relevant for the most part in the Ostland."[16] Rosenberg, meanwhile, openly permitted pogroms, noting that "retaliatory measures are to be allowed against the Jews who come into the provinces which were newly occupied by the Red Army in the last few years."[17]

Documents from the Baltic states in September and October 1941 show the Einsatzgruppen seeking to kill all Jews despite opposition from the civil administration. In early September, GebK Gewecke forestalled the plans of EK 3, "to liquidate all Jews" across the Schaulen [Siauliai] region.[18] A few weeks later, "wild" shootings in Liepaja [Libau], Latvia enraged the civilian leader, Alnor:
Especially the shooting of women and children, who sometimes had to be taken to the execution site screaming, has been the source of general horror. The rather compliant mayor of Libau […] appeared personally before me and pointed out the agitation throughout the city. Also officers asked me if this cruel manner of executing even children was necessary. In any cultured state and even in the Middle Ages it was not allowed to kill pregnant women. Here even that was not taken into consideration.[…] I am of the opinion that this will one day turn out to be a serious mistake. Unless one also liquidates thereafter all elements participating therein. (Es sei denn, dass man alle dabei mitwirkenden Elemente auch anschlieβend liquidiert.).[19]
Lohse responded by banning further executions in Liepaja.[20]There then followed a complaint by the Quartermaster -General Riga, May, concerning the withdrawal of Jews from Wehrmacht workshops. Lohse responded by stating that "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.[21]

On October 31, 1941, Leibbrandt queried Lohse's decision to ban executions in Liepaja. Lohse's reply instructed Leibbrandt that "I should like to be informed whether your inquiry of 31 October is to be regarded as a directive to liquidate all Jews in the East?" and Brauetigam replied on Leibbrandt's behalf that "Economic considerations should fundamentally remain unconsidered in the settlement of the problem."[22] No mention was made of partisans in this correspondence. In January 1942, Rosenberg held a meeting with Himmler in which was confirmed the overall command of the HSSPF in Jewish matters, the tolerance of pogroms and the disregarding of economic considerations from the "rapid and final solution" of the Jewish question.[23]

Continued in Part 2.

[1]Carlo Mattogno, Jürgen Graf and Thomas Kues, The “Extermination Camps” of “Aktion Reinhardt”—An Analysis and Refutation of Factitious “Evidence,” Deceptions and Flawed Argumentation of the “Holocaust Controversies” Bloggers. Castle Hill, 2013, p.346.

[2] Jürgen Förster, ‘The Wehrmacht and the War of Extermination against the Soviet Union,’ Yad Vashem Studies 14, 1981, p.12, citing Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb (ed. Georg Meyer), Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb : Tagebuchaufzeichnungen und Lagebeurteilungen aus zwei Weltkriegen, Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1976, p.288.

[3] Aufruf Adolf Hitlers an die Soldaten der deutschen Wehrmacht vom 2. 10. 1941.VEJ 7, Dok. 91, pp. 307-309, here p.307, and in Adolf Hitler Reden: Der Grossdeutsche Freiheitskampf - Band III. Munich, 1943, at

[4] Hitler, Mein Kampf, p.452 at

[5] Extract from Himmler, 'The Security Squadron as an Anti-Bolshevist Battle Organization,' from The New Germany Speaks Here, 1936. 1851-PS, NCA IV pp.488ff., here p.490.

[6] Official B.B.C. translation of radio speeches of Hans Fritzsche, monitored by the British Broadcasting Corporation, p.2069, 3064-PS, NCA, vol. V, p.879.

[7]AOK 18, Ic, von Kuechler, 22.7.40. NOKW-1531, NMT vol. X, pp.1207-1208, here p.1208.

[8] AOK 6 Verhalten der Truppe im Ostraum, 10.10.41, forwarded by von Runstedt, 12.10.41, NOKW-309. Facsimile and English translation in John Mendelsohn (ed). The Einsatzgruppen or Murder Commandos. New York, 1982, pp.6-12, here p.11; facsimile reproduced on-line with German text at; also published in Gerd R. Ueberschär and Wolfram Wette (eds), “Unternehmen Barbarossa”. Der deutsche Überfall auf die Sowjetunion. Frankfurt am Main, 1991, p.285ff.

[9] Isabel V. Hull, Absolute Destruction. Military Culture and the Practices of War in Imperial Germany. London, 2005.

[10] Generaloberst Halder, Kriegstagebuch, Bd. III: Der Rußlandfeldzug bis zum Marsch auf Stalingrad (22.6.1941 -24.9.1942), bearb. von Hans-Adolf Jacobsen, Stuttgart 1964, p. 53, provided by Roberto Muehlenkamp. On-line:

[11] Vermerk über die Besprechung am 16.7.1941, L-221, IMT XXXVIII, pp.86-94, here p.88.

[12] Martin Broszat, 'Hitler and the Genesis of the ‘Final Solution’: An Assessment of David Irving’s Theses', in Michael R. Marrus, ed., The Nazi Holocaust: Historical Articles on the Destruction of European Jews. 3: The "Final Solution": The Implementation of Mass Murder, Volume 1, London, 1989, p.129-30, citing Andreas Hilgruber, Staatsmänner und Diplomaten bei Hitler, Vol. II, Munich, 1970, p.556.

[13] Christopher R Browning, The Origins of The Final Solution, Lincoln, 2004, p.320, citing Goebbels' diary 19.8.41.

[14] EM 25, 17.7.41.

[15] Yitzhak Arad, ‘Alfred Rosenberg and the “Final Solution' in the Occupied Soviet Territories,’ in Michael R. Marrus, ed., The Nazi Holocaust: Historical Articles on the Destruction of European Jews. 3: The "Final Solution": The Implementation of Mass Murder, Volume 2. London, 1989, p.421, citing Minutes of Meeting held on August 5, 1941, YVA O.4/53/1.

[16] Betrifft: Entwurf über die Aufstellung vorläufiger Richlinien für die Behandlung der Juden im Gebiet des Reichskommissariates Ostland, 6.8.41, VEJ 7, pp. 511-514 (Dok. 181).

[17] Richtlinien für die Behandlung der Judenfrage, undated [3.9.41], 212-PS, VEJ 8, p.87; translation in NCA III, p.223.

[18] Vermerk des Geb.-Komm Gewecke, 3.9.41, YVA O.53/132, p.16; see also Gewecke, 8.9.41, 3661-PS; cf. Yitzhak Arad, Ghetto In Flames. The Struggle and Destruction of the Jews in Vilna in the Holocaust. Brooklyn, 1982, pp.165-66.

[19] Bericht des Gebietskommissars Libau, gez. Alnor, an den Generalkommissar Lettland, Drechsler, 11.10.1941, VEJ 7, pp.556-57 (Dok. 200), translation provided by Roberto Muehlenkamp at:

[20] Lohse an Rosenberg, betr: Judenexekutionen, 3663-PS, IMT XXXII, pp.435-436.

[21] Lohse an Jeckeln, 2.12.41, 3664-PS. On-line:

[22] Leibbrandt an Lohse, betr: Judenexekutionen, 31.10.41, IMT XXXII, pp.435-436; Lohse an Leibbrandt, betr: Judenexekutionen, 15.11.41, 3663-PS, IMT XXXII, p.436; Braeutigam an Lohse, 18.12.41, betr: Judenfrage, 3666-PS, IMT XXXII, p.437.

[23] Betrifft: Braune Mappe fuer die Reichskommissariate Ostland und Ukraine, 29.1.42, T/298.

1 comment:

Gilles Karmasyn said...

Hi folks, great post and great idea, as this (quite nazi) meme is very common. French reading people might be interrested in the page I wrote some time ago about the very same topic, here: