Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Final Solution and the German Press: 2. Winter 1941-1942

Author: Jonathan Harrison
Continued from Part 1.

On November 16, Goebbels wrote a piece for Das Reich which stated that "The Jews are receiving a penalty that is certainly hard, but more than deserved. World Jewry erred in adding up the forces available to it for this war, and now is gradually experiencing the destruction that it planned for us, and would have carried out without a second thought if it had possessed the ability. It is perishing according its own law: "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."[1]

On November 18, three days after a meeting with Himmler, Rosenberg gave a briefing to the German press in which he stated that:
In the east some six million Jews still live, and this question can only be solved in a biological eradication of the entire Jewry of Europe. The Jewish question is only solved for Germany when the last Jew has left German territory, and for Europe when not a single Jew lives on the European continent up to the Urals. ...for this reason it is necessary to expel them over the Urals or eradicate them in some other way.[2]
On November 28, Hitler told the Mufti that "Germany's objective would then be solely the destruction of the Jewish element residing in the Arab sphere under the protection of British power." Germany had therefore abandoned any intention to allow Jews who emigrated to North Africa to survive.[3] Three days later, Hitler supposedly stated in his (academically disputed) Table Talk:
Now, he who destroys life is himself risking death. That's the secret of what is happening to the Jews. Whose fault is it when a cat devours a mouse? The fault of the mouse, who has never done any harm to a cat?[4]
On December 14, Rosenberg made a note concerning a meeting with Hitler in which they had decided to modify a forthcoming speech in the light of the declaration of war against the USA:
With regard to the Jewish question, I said that my remarks about the New York Jews would perhaps have to be changed now, after the decision. My position was that the extermination of the Jews should not be mentioned. The Fuhrer agreed. He said they had brought the war down on us, they had started all the destruction, so it should come as no surprise if they became its first victims.

The Fuehrer further said that he did not deeem it necessary to order forth the other nations to contribute as yet, since they can produce therein a legal claim for later. He does that from time to time in single negotiations. I told him that I, too, had written that down as a question. I would comply with these instructions to edit more carefully the corresponding paragraphs in my speech. The Fuehrer agreed throughout that I had touched upon the Asiatic conflict.[5]
The note indicates that the extermination was to be Europe-wide by showing that the speech had intended to appeal to other nations to participate. Hitler had chosen instead to cajole those nations in individual meetings. Evidence that this was the moment when Hitler announced ‘the decision’ also comes from the speech Goebbels described as having been made to the top echelons of the Nazi party by Hitler on December 12, 1941:
With regard to the Jewish Question, the Führer is determined to make a clean sweep of it. He prophesied that, if they brought about another world war, they would experience their annihilation. That was no empty talk. The world war is here [this was the week Germany declared war on the United States]. The annihilation of Jewry must be the necessary consequence. The question is to be viewed without any sentimentality. We’re not there to have sympathy with the Jews, but only sympathy with our own German people. If the German people has again now sacrificed around 160,000 dead in the eastern campaign, the originators of this bloody conflict will have to pay for it with their lives.[6]
The number of deaths that Goebbels anticipated must have been high because, in the East, the Nazis usually applied a 100:1 reprisal ratio to Jews for German deaths. Hans Frank reflected the meaning of ‘the decision’ in a speech in Krakow on December 16, 1941, when he noted that "We cannot shoot or poison those 3,500,000 Jews, but we shall nevertheless be able to take measures, which will lead, somehow, to their annihilation."[7] The documents therefore converge on an extermination decision having been finalized in the days following Pearl Harbour. However, Rosenberg’s previous speech of November 18 had anticipated the decision, whilst leaving open the possibility that Jews may still be killed by expulsion into an inhospitable climate rather than by shooting or gassing.

The details of the implementation of the "decision" began to take shape at Wannsee on January 20, 1942. There are four features of the Wannsee Protocol that can be highlighted. Firstly, the Protocol[8] was silent on the fate of non-working Jews. Given that the document claims to be concerned with resettlement, this is a case where silence implies intent to kill. Secondly, the fate of the working Jews also makes this inference the only plausible one:
Under proper guidance, in the course of the final solution the Jews are to be allocated for appropriate labour 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.)
There was a clear implication that the only way to guarantee no Jewish revival was to kill the remnant. Moreover, "treated accordingly" converges with the meaning of Sonderbehandlung that Heydrich had been using since 1939. Fourthly, exterminatory knowledge was indicated by the sentence, "SS-Gruppenführer Hofmann advocates the opinion that sterilization will have to be widely used, since the person of mixed blood who is given the choice whether he will be evacuated or sterilized would rather undergo sterilization." This clearly implies a shared knowledge that evacuation was a fatal measure. Finally, it is crucial that "State Secretary Dr. Bühler stated that the General Government would welcome it if the final solution of this problem could be begun in the General Government, since on the one hand transportation does not play such a large role here nor would problems of labor supply hamper this action." This shows that a proposal was already in the air that the final solution regarding Jews from the General Governement was to take place within the General Governement. Frank and Bühler had a growing awareness that their Jews could be eliminated without leaving Poland.

After Wannsee, the rhetoric of the leadership intensified to prepare its audience for deportations. In his Old Fighters’ speech of February 24, 1942, Hitler declared that "through this war, Aryan humankind will not be annihilated, but the Jew will be exterminated."[9] This was repeated the following day in at least one newspaper under the title "Preparation of the Final Settlement with the Conspirators."[10]

At the Final Solution conference of March 6, 1942, it was stated that it had come down from the "highest quarter” (Hitler) that “it was in no way tenable to keep the half-Jews permanently alive." It was thus clearly known that full Jews were slated to die.[11] On the same date, Goebbels stated that "Everywhere the Jews are busy inciting and stirring up trouble. It is therefore desirable that many of them must pay with their lives for this. Anyway, I am of the opinion that the greater the number of Jews liquidated, the more consolidated will be the situation in Europe after this war. One must have no mistaken sentimentality about it. The Jews are Europe's misfortune. They must somehow be eliminated, otherwise we are in danger of being eliminated by them." Goebbels had, earlier in the entry, reported German deaths in the East as 199,448 up to February 20, with 708,351 wounded and 44,352 missing; thus East and west were linked in his desire for vengeance[12]

[1] Die Juden sind schuld!" Das eherne Herz: Reden und Aufsätze aus den Jahren 1941/42 von
Joseph Goebbels
, Munich, 1943, p. 85; English translation by Randall Bytwerk at Calvin
College German Propaganda Archive:
[2] Christopher R. Browning, Evidence for the Implementation of the Final Solution, citing Rosenberg, 18.11.1941, in Political Archives of the Foreign Office, Pol. XIII, VAA Berichte, online at:
[3] Aufzeichnung des Gesandten Schmidt über die Unterredung zwischen Adolf Hitler und dem Großmufti von Jerusalem Hadji Mohammed Amin el Hussein, Akten zur deutschen auswärtigen Politik: 1918 - 1945  aus dem Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes, D,13, 2, pp. 718-721, here 720-721 and at
[4] Hitler's Table Talk, 1.12.41, pp.140-141. Thomas Dalton quotes one paragraph from this statement but omits the rest:
[5] Rosenberg, Vermerk über die Unterredung beim Führer, 14.12.41, O.18/252, 1517-PS, IMT XXVII, p.270ff.. English translation NMT IV, pp.55-58, here pp.55-56. Note that the validity of the Table Talk as a source has been cast into doubt by recent research, see and comments below this posting. 
[6] TBJG II/2, pp.487-500 (13.12.1941),  here pp.498-499.  Online:
[7] Extracts from Sitzung der Regierung des Generalgouvernements, 16.12.41, 2233-PS, M.9/255 and IMT XXIX, pp.498-505, here p.503; English translation in NCA II, p.634.
[8] 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. 
[9] Max Domarus, Hitler. Reden und Proklamationen 1932-1945. 2 Bde. Wiesbaden, 1973, II, p.1844; cf Aly, Endlösung, p.404; Richard J Evans, David Irving, Hitler and Holocaust Denial, electronic edition, 2000.
[10] 'Vorbereitung der endgültigen Abrechnung mit den Verschwörern'. Deutsche Zeitung in den Niederlanden', Nr. 262 (25.2.42), p.1,
[11] Besprechungsniederschrift der Besprechung über die Endlösung der Judenfrage, 6.3.1942, NG-2586 (H); T/100.
[12] TBJG II/3, pp.420-427  (6.3.42), here 421 and 425-426; English translation in Louis Lochner (ed.), The Goebbels Diaries, pp.131-134 (6.3.42).
Addendum 15/5/2018: The Table Talk entry has been modified as per Sergey's comment below.


Sergey Romanov said...

Hitler's Tischgespräche is a murky source in itself, it should not be thought of as somehow recording Hitler's direct speech, but the English edition is even worse as it contains direct falsifications. It should *never* be relied upon.

Jonathan Harrison said...

I have amended the posting and put an addendum in the notes.

Sergey Romanov said...