Saturday, March 28, 2009

Volhynia-Podolia, 1942 - Extermination Decisions

In March 1942, Karl Pütz became the KdS in Rivne, with authority over the Sipo and SD throughout Volhynia-Podolia. He replaced Hermann Ling, who then became involved in recruiting labour to send to Vinnytsia for the DG IV road project. Pütz remained KdS until October 1943, by which time the Germans had exterminated all the Jews they could lay their hands on in the region. A review of documents written by and/or mentioning Pütz and his domain can therefore help us to reconstruct the decision-making process in the region.

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The origins of the role of the KdS in Ukraine are explained in this earlier blog. The KdS was subordinate to the HSSPF Russia South, Prützmann, who in turn reported directly to Himmler. However, the KdS had a high degree of personal authority and also worked closely with the civil administration, which had legal oversight over Jewish affairs in such matters as food policy, which became crucial in deciding the timing of killing Aktions. The HSSPF, it should be noted, had control over labour programs, most notably the DG IV road-building project that ran through Ukraine, from west to east, starting in Lvov. This would also create internal tensions, as discussed below.

Pütz's first appearance in Holocaust historiography is in the Nuremberg affadavit of Hermann Friedrich Graebe (2992-PS) concerning the mass executions at Rowno [Rivne] on 13 July, 1942 and at Dubno on 5 October, 1942. On the Rivne Aktion, Graebe claimed:
SS Major [SS-Sturmbannfuehrer] Puetz stated to me that no pogrom (Aktion) whatever was planned. Moreover such a pogrom would be stupid because the firms and the Reichsbahn would lose valuable workers.
However, Graebe continued:
An hour later I received a summons to appear before the Area Commissioner of Rowno. His deputy, Stableiter and Cadet Officer [Ordensjunker] Beck, subjected me to the same questioning as I had undergone at the SD. My explanation that I had sent the Jews home for urgent delousing appeared plausible to him. He then told me -- making me promise to keep it a secret -- that a pogrom would in fact take place on the evening of Monday 13 July 1942. After lengthy negotiation I managed to persuade him to give me permission to take my Jewish workers to Sdolbunow but only after the pogrom had been carried out. During the night it would be up to me to protect the house in the Ghetto against the entry of Ukrainian militia and SS. As confirmation of the discussion he gave me a document, which stated that the Jewish employees of Messrs. Jung were not affected by the pogrom [Original attached.]
For our purposes, Graebe is significant because he shows the close collusion of the SS and civil administration in the Aktion. Pütz had apparently taken Graebe's objections to the planned killings of his workers to the Area Commissioner, Georg Marschall, who had eventually granted an exemption, albeit temporary.

The following month, on August 28-31, Pütz and the civil administration held a meeting in Luzk during which the instruction to complete the liquidations of ghettos in Volhynia-Podolia "within the next five weeks" was given. There were two key background events, outlined below, that led to this meeting. Firstly, as noted above, the DG IV program was recruiting labour in the area to send to Vinnytsia, and there was a need to redraw political boundaries to determine whether DG IV would be allowed to interfere with the liquidations. Secondly, as Gerlach argues, Koch's administration was coming under massive pressure to supply far more food to the Reich, and this led to the conclusion that even previously essential workers were consuming food needed elsewhere so had to be killed.

On August 17, Hermann Ling sent the following telex [cited by Angrick, p.105]:
Through personal consultation with the SD outpost in Kamianets-Podilsky and the responsible county commissioners, [I] have secured 500 Jews from Kamianets-Podilsky, 600 Jews from Dunaivtsi, 800 Jews from Bar, 400 Jews from Iarmolyntsi for DG IV's purposes. The inspector for DG IV in Vinnytsia, SS Senior Colonel [Theobald] Thier, assumes transport and employment. I was forced to realize, however, that without my intervention these Jews would have been executed; for example, executions in Dunaivtsi County and Bar had already been prepared. I ask that [you] work toward seeing to it that in the future the counties bordering DG IV all Jews still fit for work are turned over to DG IV and no longer executed.
This telex indicates that the civil administration and SS in some counties was already killing fit Jewish workers, presumably to meet food demands coming down from Koch, or because there were no longer any perceived constraints on their ideological mission to kill Jews locally. It also shows, however, that even the SS, which was in charge of DG IV, had other interests that required forced labour, and which therefore created tensions within the SS concerning the killing of that labour. Such tensions were also identified by Browning in the case of Brest:
Informed of the impending "overall resettlement of the Jews" (generelle Umsiedlung der Juden), the SS and Polizeistandortführer in Brest-Litovsk, Friedrich Wilhelm Rohde, pleaded: "Insofar as the Jewish question is solved in Brest, I foresee severe economic damage resulting from the lack of labor." He was supported by the local commissioner (Gebietskommissar) Franz Burat: "Although the total resettlement of the Jews from the Kreisgebiet is desirable from the political standpoint, from the standpoint of labor mobilization, I must plead unconditionally for leaving the most needed artisans and manpower."
The role of Pütz, as KdS, may be inferred as being to quell such local questionings of policy and to achieve support for total extermination, either through building consensus or by imposing an order. On August 28-31 there was a meeting at Luzk headed by Koch's representative Paul Dargel and attended by Pütz, which ordered a "100% solution" to the Jewish Question in the region, to be implemented within five weeks, with just a two-month stay of execution for 'specialists' after each Aktion. This clearly, either by coincidence or design, killed off any attempts to retain or recruit Jewish labour. It may also have been anticipated already locally, as Ling had perceived in Dunaivtsi County and Bar.

However, as Gerlach claims in this collection, the event was also the result of much higher level meetings between Hitler, Himmler and Koch concerning the total extermination of working Jews. For example, Gerlach (p.226) cites the fact that:
Gerald Fleming has already established that Hitler, not Himmler, gave the order for their elimination to Erich Koch in July 1942 [whilst on] 9 July, Himmler took over the operation to "secure the harvest" in Reichskommissariat Ukraine.
The final appearance of Karl Pütz in the chronology concerns the implementation of SK 1005; the digging up and burning of mass graves evidence by the SS to destroy the physical evidence. Pohl, p.54, shows that on August 3, 1943, Pütz issued a circular to the Gendarmerie in Volhynia-Podolia asking for lists of mass graves. "Some 200 sites were apparently reported."

In conclusion, therefore, this account of Pütz's term in office offers a window into how the SS and civil administration worked together in Volhynia-Podolia (and, by extension, the RKU); how needs for forced labour were expressed but then suppressed; and how the KdS ensured that the wishes of the centre were imposed locally even in the face of obvious contradictions between the centre's wishes and the region's needs.


  1. Thanks for reading,
    Our main aim is to prevent another HOLOCAUST of happening again,
    Today some people claim that the HOLOCAUST never happened, that it is exaggeration,
    We prove that it did since we see the YAD VASHEM lists and from this lists we can deduce the destiny of our family,
    Jewish Holocaust Never Ends
    My father’s family name is Winik. He was born on May 2, 1919. His parents’ house was at 48 Obwodowa street in RIVNE. The address is marked in red on the accurate map from the website My father passed away nearly two years ago in Kiryat Haiym in Israel.
    About a year ago we found the names of his parents (my grandpa and grandma) and my father’s little sister on the list of Jews of RIVNE ghetto in Yad Vashem. This proves that they perished on 13 July 1942 ,at night, when the RIVNE ghetto was liquidated by the Nazis. All 5355 Jews were shoved into cattle carriages to Kostopil and shot!
    Going over the list of Jews in the RIVNE ghetto in the father’s room we found:
    • Risia Winik
    • Baruch Winik
    • Ruchale Winik (15 years old)
    • Miriam Reich
    • Eli Reich
    • Moses Reich (10 years old)
    • Deborah Whitman
    • Feiga Whitman (1 year old girl)
    7 people and a 1 year old baby in a single room!
    The other members of my Father’s family, Yossi and Hasia, were most probably no longer alive. A photo of the RIVNE market indicates that the house had been bombed and they were already dead in the early days of the war. According to a witness from RIVNE, the Nazi bombing was very devastating. Shrapnels made holes of a size of a fist! The whole center of RIVNE was ruined. Another witness from RIVNE also points out the Nazi bombing devastation.
    My Father was the only survivor from his family of 6 only because he was drafted to the Red Army after the Ribbentrop-Molotov partition of Poland in 1939.
    After WW2 had ended, in 1957, since my Father was a Polish citizen, we emigrated from Tashkent in the USSR to Łódź in Poland and in 1960 we made aliyah to Kiryat Haiym in Israel.
    Thanks again
    Best Regards
    Michael Winik

  2. It exist the rumour and aparently documentaation about this extermination camp that it was managed by the romanian gouvernement, I see in this blog that its not true! What book do u have like bibliographie. Please confirm this fact about german management of the camp Podolia.

  3. apavietii: "It exist the rumour and aparently documentaation about this extermination camp that it was managed by the romanian gouvernement, I see in this blog that its not true! What book do u have like bibliographie. Please confirm this fact about german management of the camp Podolia."

    It's not clear what you are asking here. The blog post from 2009 cites (by links - the blue names) among other sources articles from a collection edited by Ray Brandon and Wendy Lower called The Shoah in Ukraine, published by Indiana University Press in 2008.

    The blog post does not discuss the Romanian administration of Transnistria but looks at the Nazi administration of Generalkommissariat Wolhynien-Podolien.

    The blog post does not discuss extermination camps, but forced labour camps that were part of the 'Durchgangsstrasse IV' network (DG IV). This ran through Galicia, Volhynia and across the Dnieper river towards southern Russia. The chapter by Andrej Angrick in 'The Shoah in Ukraine' covers this subject.

    The Romanian government did, however, hand over Jews from Transnistria to work for the Germans on DG IV. This was in 1942. By the time the Germans retreated in late 1943, essentially none of the forced labourers were alive. That was the responsibility of the Nazis.


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