Wednesday, May 09, 2018

The Final Solution and the German Press: 1. September-October 1941

Author: Jonathan Harrison
On September 10-12, 1941, several German language newspapers across Nazi-occupied Europe announced that Stalin was going to exterminate the Volga Germans after deporting them to Siberia. This announcement played an important role in making loyal Nazis more willing to contemplate a fatal deportation of Jews, especially when viewed as a justifiable form of vengeance and as a fulfillment of Hitler's Reichstag prophecy of January 30, 1939, that a world war would result in the extermination of Jews. The following article analyzes that process with links to primary sources.

A military newspaper made the extermination theme explicit in the title of its article, 'Ausrottung von 400000 Deutschstämmigen [Extermination of 400,000 ethnic Germans].' This quoted a statement by the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung which claimed that deported Volga Germans were to be liquidated but that this in turn would lead to the liquidation of the perpetrators. The article also connected the deportation to Kaufman's proposal to sterilize all Germans in his book Germany Must Perish, which was portrayed as reflecting Roosevelt's intentions.[1] A newspaper published for Nazis stationed in Holland, Deutsche Zeitung in den Niederlanden, stated that Stalin's "resettlement" [umsiedlung] was infact a scheduled extermination ["planmässige Ausrottung"].[2]

These articles reflected thinking in the Eastern Ministry. Rosenberg stated in his diary that "Stalin now was also going to expel the remaining 400,000 Volga Germans to Siberia, that is, to murder them" and predicted that Jews in central Europe would pay the price.[3] His subordinate Leibbrandt, who headed the Eastern Ministry's Political unit, echoed this the next day by declaring that "Jewry in the areas located in the German field of power. . . will be repaid manyfold for the crime."[4] Leibbrandt had a strong emotional connection to the Volga Germans because his academic career had been largely devoted to studying them.

Hitler acceded to Rosenberg's request to deport Reich Jews as a reprisal measure on September 14, according to Braeutigam's contemporary record.[5] Initially, however, Hitler had been hesitant; the representative for the Eastern Ministry in Hitler`s headquarters, Koeppen, wrote that the Envoy von Steengracht (representative of the Foreign Office in the headquarters of the Führer) had told him that Hitler was considering the question of postponing possible "Pressalien" (i.e. Repressalien; reprisals) against the German Jews "for [the] eventuality of an American entry into the war."[6] Conversely, Hitler had radicalized his own language on September 12 when, during his launch of the campaign for winter work relief, he stated that Jewish capitalism and Bolshevism sought to exterminate the German people and that the enemy were beasts, not humans.[7] Given that this reflected a radicalization in his beliefs about the time period in which he wished to carry out the extermination of Jews, the period September 10-14 was an especially pivotal moment in making the Final Solution an immediate priority.

The fate intended for deported Reich Jews became clear in Heydrich's statements during the following weeks. On October 2, Heydrich ruled out the resettlement in the East of Czechs who were hostile to Germany because "they would form a leadership class in the East, which would be directed against us." He stated that these people should be "put up against the wall."[8] If Heydrich had this view of a category of Czechs, it follows that he had the same fate in mind for Jews. Two days later, Heydrich met Meyer, Leibbrandt, Schlotterer and Ehlich and complained that demands for Jewish labour would prevent a "total resettlement of the Jews out of the territories occupied by us."[9] These statements can only be reconciled if Heydrich's "total resettlement" was a euphemism for killing the Jews within the territories occupied by the Germans, because the statement of two days earlier had ruled out the resettlement of hostile populations in colonies in the East, and Jews were intrinsically a hostile population in the Nazi worldview. This was reflected, as shown below, by Heydrich's statement at Wannsee on January 20, 1942, that any remnant of Jewry had 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)."[10] It is also confirmed by the fact that Heydrich 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."[11]

Heydrich's meaning was spelled out on October 10 in Prague when he noted that Hitler wanted "the Jews to be removed from German space if possible by the end of the year" and that "SS Brigadeführer Nebe and Rasch could also take Jews into the camps for Communist prisoners within the area of military operations. Heydrich stated that transport would not be an issue.[12] The implication was that Jews would be selected for killing at these camps, as they fulfilled the criteria for "special treatment" that Heydrich had been spelling out in his special orders since July 17.[13]

These discussions took place at a time when the content of exterminatory antisemitic propaganda and Hitler's private utterances was becoming more extreme. On October 21 and 25, according to Trevor-Roper's academically disputed Table Talk collection, Hitler connected deportation to extermination when he stated that "By exterminating this pest, we shall do humanity a service of which our soldiers can have no idea" and "That race of criminals has on its conscience the two million dead of the first World War, and now already hundreds of thousands more. Let nobody tell me that all the same we can't park them in the marshy parts of Russia! Who's worrying about our troops? It's not a bad idea, by the way, that public rumour attributes to us a plan to exterminate the Jews. Terror is a salutary thing."[14] On the same day as the latter statement, Hitler told Ciano that the Soviets had probably suffered ten million deaths so far, of which three million were prisoners[15], and Leibbrandt's subordinate Wetzel drafted a recommendation to kill non-working Jews in Riga and Minsk using a gassing apparatus:
Re: Solution of the Jewish Question

1. To the Reich Commissar for the East

Re: Your report of October 4, 1941 in respect to the Solution of the Jewish Question.

Referring to my letter of 18 October 1941, you are informed that Oberdienstleiter Brack of the Chancellery of the Fuehrer has declared himself ready to collaborate in the manufacture of the necessary shelters, as well as the gassing apparatus. At the present time the apparatus in question are not on hand in the Reich in sufficient number; they will first have to be manufactured. Since in Brack's opinion the manufacture of the apparatus in the Reich will cause more difficulty than if manufactured on the spot, Brack deems it most expedient to send his people direct to Riga, especially his chemist Dr. Kallmeyer, who will have everything further done there. Oberdienstleiter Brack points out that the process in question is not without danger, so that special protective measures are necessary. Under these circumstances I beg you to turn to Oberdienstleiter Brack, in the Chancellery of the Fuehrer, through your Higher SS and Police Leader and to request the dispatch of the chemist Dr. Kallmeyer as well as of further aides. I draw attention to the fact that Sturmbannfuehrer Eichmann, the referent for Jewish questions in the RSHA, is in agreement with this process. On information from Sturmbannfuehrer Eichmann, camps for Jews are to be set up in Riga and Minsk to which Jews from the old Reich territory may possibly be sent. At the present time, Jews being deported from the old Reich are to be sent to Litzmannstadt [Lodz], but also to other camps, to be later used as labor (Arbeitseinsatz) the East so far as they are able to work.

As affairs now stand, there are no objections against doing away with those Jews who are unable to work with the Brack remedy. In this way occurrences would no longer be possible such as those which, according to a report presently before me, took place at the shooting of Jews in Vilna [Vilnius] and which, considering that the shootings were public, were hardly excusable. Those able to work, on the other hand, will be transported to the East for labor service. It is self-understood that among the Jews capable of work, men and women are to be kept separate.

I beg you to advise me regarding your further steps.[16]
Wetzel testified on September 20, 1961, that Leibbrandt had dictated this draft.[17] On November 12, 1941 he submitted a memo to Leibbrandt which mentioned letters Wetzel had written to Brack, Lohse and Koch the day before.[18] The draft of October 25 was therefore part of on-going correspondence that continued into the first half of November. Moreover, Wetzel's draft enables us to infer that he, Lohse and Leibbrandt were aware of the Vilnius executions of July 1941, and also a genocidal policy of separating Jews by sex to prevent reproduction, which has implications for the fate of non-working Jews.

German newspapers caught the mood that fueled these developments, and published inflammatory speeches by Hitler and others. On October 9, one newspaper published an order to the troops from Hitler issued seven days earlier stating that the Bolshevik and capitalist systems were the responsibility of "Jews and only Jews [Juden und nur Juden]."[19]

On October 28, the same newspaper connected Antonescu's fatal deportation of Rumanian Jews to ghettoes bordering the Bug River to Hitler's Reichstag prophecy. Peter Longerich summarizes how Goebbels orchestrated this campaign:
Goebbels’s solution was to launch another anti-Semitic campaign at the end of October without referring to the deportations from Germany. This campaign once more targeted the alleged dominant influence of the Jews in the Soviet Union, in the United States, and in Great Britain and was intended to prove the existence of the Jewish world conspiracy. Another event, however, formed the prelude: A letter written by the Romanian head of state, Ion Antonescu, to Wilhelm Filderman, the leading Jewish representative in that country, in which he strongly rejected the latter’s complaints about the deportation of the Bessarabian Jews to Transnistria, was given widespread coverage in the press. The press was instructed to give this letter and the deportations from Bessarabia prominence and to recall Hitler’s prophecy of January 1939 in which he had predicted "the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe" in the event of a world war. The Völkischer Beobachter reported on October 27 under the headline "They Dug Their Own Grave! Jewish Warmongers Sealed Jewry’s Fate." As instructed by the propaganda minister, the article included the quotation from Hitler’s speech of January 30, 1939, in full and added: "What the Führer announced prophetically then has now become reality. The war of revenge against Germany stirred up by the Jews has now turned on the Jews themselves. The Jews must follow the path that they prepared for themselves."
This was a key indicator of how Germans by this time understood the deportation of Jews in terms of their extermination.[20] A German diplomatic document, probably by Richter, dated October 17, 1941, had stated regarding Antonescu's policy that the "Purpose of the action is the liquidation of these Jews."[21]

Continued in Part 2.

[1] 'Ausrottung von 400000 Deutschstämmigen', Feldzeitung von der Maas bis an die Memel, published by Prop.-Kompanie Feldpostnummer 17001, (Pk 501 - 16. Armee),  Nr. 228 (12.9.41),
[2] "Verschleppung der Wolgadeutschen Abtransport nach Sibirien — Das Märchen von der „fünften Kolonne”". Deutsche Zeitung in den Niederlanden. Nr. 98, Amsterdam, 10.9.41, p.2,
[3] Alfred Rosenberg Tagebuch 12.9.41, on-line:
[4] Cited in Eric J. Schmaltz and Samuel D. Sinner, 'The Nazi Ethnographic Research of Georg Leibbrandt and Karl Stumpp in Ukraine, and Its North American Legacy', Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 14 (1), March 2000, pp.28–64, here p.42.
[5] Peter Longerich, Holocaust, p.267, citing H. D. Heilmann, ‘Aus dem Kriegstagebuch des Diplomaten Otto Bräutigam’, in Götz Aly et al., eds, Biedermann und Schreibtischtäter. Materialien zur deutschen Täter-Biographie. Institut für Sozialforschung Hamburg. Beiträge zur nationalsozialistischen Gesundheits- und Sozialpolitik 4 (1987), p.144.
[6] Published in Martin Vogt (ed.), Herbst 1941 im „Führerhauptquartier“. Berichte Werner Koeppens an seinen Minister Alfred Rosenberg. Koblenz: Bundesarchiv, 2002, pp.34-35.
[7] 'Verschworene Einheit: Aufruf des Führers zum Kriegswinterhilfswerk', Deutsche Zeitung im Ostland, Nr. 40 (13.9.41), p.1.
[8] Ansprache Heydrichs über die NS-Ziele im Protektorat, in: Herder-Institut (Hrsg.): Dokumente und Materialien zur ostmitteleuropäischen Geschichte. Themenmodul "Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren", bearb. von Stefan Lehr (Münster). URL:
[9] Niederschrift (III B El/Ma) einer Besprechung zwischen Heydrich, Gauleiter Meyer, Min.Dir. Schlotterer, Dr. Leibbrandt und Dr. Ehlich vom  4.10.1941. NO-1020, VEJ 7, p.153 (Dok. 199).
[10] Besprechungsprotokoll, Am Grossen Wannsee Nr. 56-58, 20 Jan. 1942, Berlin, 20.1.42, TR.3/74, p.8; English translation at, discussed in more detail in the next section.
[11] Christopher R. Browning, Evidence for the Implementation of the Final Solution, Part III, citing Luther memoranda, 13 and 17.10.41, in:  Political Archives of the German Foreign Office, Pol. Abt.. III 246,
[12] Notizen aus der Besprechung am 10.10.41 über die Lösung der Judenfragen, T/294, pp. 2 and 6; partial English translation in Longerich, Holocaust, p.271.
[13] Richtlinien für die in die Stalags abzustellenden Kommandos des Chefs der Sicherheitspolizei und den SD, 17.7.41, 502-PS, p.4, YVA O.18/104; English translation in NCA III, pp.422-425, here p.424.
[14] Hitler's Table Talk, 1941-1944: His Private Conversations, translated by Norman Cameron and R.H. Stevens, 3rd edition, New York: 2000, p.79 and p.87, online at: Addendum 15.5.2018: Note that the validity of the Table Talk as a source has been cast into doubt by recent research, see
[15] Aufzeichnung des Gesandten Schmidt über die Unterredung zwischen Adolf Hitler und dem Grafen Ciano, 25.10.41, Akten zur deutschen auswärtigen Politik: 1918 - 1945 aus dem Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes; D,13, 2, pp. 563-570, here 565; English translation in Documents on German Foreign Policy, Series D, Volume XIII, Washington: 1954, pp.687- 697, here 690-691.
[16] Wetzel draft an Lohse, 25.10.41, facsimile and English translation at M.9/350, pp.4-7, NO-365.
[17] BArch B 162/20424, pp.216ff.
[18] Wetzel an Leibbrandt, 12.11.41, NO-2094.
[19] 'Tagesbefehl des Führers', Deutsche Zeitung in den Niederlanden , Nr. 127 ( 9.10.41), p.1,
[20] 'An der Klagemauer', Deutsche Zeitung in den Niederlanden, Nr. 146 (28.10.41), p.1, Elke Fröhlich [Hrsg. ]: Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels. Teil 2: Diktate 1941-1945, Bd. 2: Oktober bis Dezember 1941 (Verlag: München, Saur,, 1996), pp.188-191 (27.10.41), here p.188. Peter Longerich, Goebbels: A Biography, Kindle Edition, 11445.

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