Friday, September 29, 2017

Debunking the Partisan Meme: 2. Contents of Shooting Reports

Further to Part 1, denier claims about Jews being shot on partisan grounds often ignore the elephant in the room, namely the overwhelming emphasis on the 'Jewish question' in the reports sent by the killers. The actions against Jews also fail to fulfill the criteria of partisan war, where one would expect the capture of enemy weapons and the killing of people on both sides in actual combat. Instead, the killers used euphemistic language such as "active or passive resistance", which enabled them to interpret any real or imagined gesture by a Jew as a hostile act. It often requires a deliberate and stubborn gullibility on the part of a denier to read the pretexts given in the Einsatzgruppen reports as genuine and valid reasons to execute someone.

Arguably the most important moment of escalation in the extermination of Soviet Jews was the Pripet marshes campaign which Himmler personally instigated in late July 1941 using the SS Cavalry Brigade under his own ultimate command. On July 11, Montua passed on an order by the HSSPF that male Jews aged between 17 and 45 were to be shot as looters.[1] This reflected Himmler's belief that the Soviets had resettled criminals into the marshes. On July 27, Himmler's Kommandosonderbefehl specified that people who were "racially and humanly inferior" were to be shot if they were suspected of supporting the partisans; their villages were to be burned down and the women and children removed.[2] By August 1st, this had become an order from Himmler to kill the women, but the means of killing were ambiguous: "All Jews must be shot. Drive Jewish women into the swamps."[3] Lombard passed on this order to his brigade, stating that "No male Jew stays alive, no residual family in the villages,"[4] resulting in a reported 13,788 Jews being shot by August 13.[5] The killing reports specified "looters", showing that the guiding 'a priori' assumption was still Jewish criminality rather than documented partisan activity:
Jewish looters were shot. Only a few craftsmen who were working in repair shops of the Wehrmacht were left behind. To drive women and children into the swamps did not have the desired effect as the swamps were not deep enough [for them] to sink. In a depth of 1 metre there was solid ground (possibly sand) in most cases so that sinking [bodies] was not possible.[6]
Pieper cites a perpetrator statement that conveys the context in which the killings were understood:
They were shot because they were Jews. There cannot have been any other reason from my point of view. It is out of the question that they supported the partisans or were partisans themselves. I don’t know anything about Jews resisting the German troops at all. According to my observations they always were friendly and loyal. And most of them were women and children down to the smallest baby. With them, too, there were no exceptions made [and they all were killed].[7]
The bogus nature of the partisan warfare excuse is shown by the fact that, when Fegelein reported on the unit's killings in the two-week period from late July, it described the 13,788 dead Jews as "plunderers", whereas only 714 prisoners were captured.[8]

The same trend applied to the Wehrmacht. In the course of one month, units of Bechtolsheim's 707th Infantry Division shot 10,431 "captives" out of a total of 10,940, whilst incurring only two dead and five wounded.[9] This was not a battle with partisans but a massacre of civilians based on an "a priori" belief that they were the enemy, not a rational analysis of the actual political beliefs and actions of those captured.

The attitude of the Einsatzgruppen can be inferred from, for example, Activity and Situation Report 155, which states:
In Lithuania, an effort had to be made thoroughly to purge the rural districts and the small towns of Jews. Apart from basic considerations, this was also an urgent necessity because Communist elements, particularly terror groups and parts of the Polish resistance movement, made contact with the Jews, instigating them to carry on sabotage and to offer resistance. The Jews, in turn, repeatedly at-tempted to work up anti-German feeling in originally loyal and co-operative Lithuanian circles.[10]
We see here that there was a split between "basic considerations" and political ones. The basic considerations were the need to exterminate Jews as a race; all other factors were built on that base.

[1] Henning Herbert Pieper, 'The SS Cavalry Brigade and its operations in the Soviet Union, 1941-1942', PhD dissertation, University of Sheffield, June 2012, pp.93-94, citing Order from the commander of Police Regiment Centre, 11 July, 1941, in: VUA, N POL.RGT. (1), file 7.

[2] Kommandosonderbefehl. Richtlinien für die Durchkämmung und Durchstreifung von Sumpfgebieten durch Reitereinheiten, 28.7.41, BArch B162/827, pp. 421-424; Unsere Ehre heißt Treue - Kriegstagebuch des Kommandostabes Reichsführer SS Tätigkeitsberichte der 1. und 2. SS-Inf-Brigade, der 1.SS-Kav.-Brigade und von Sonderkommandos der SS, pp. 219-220.

[3] Pieper, p.138, citing Radio message, KavRgt. 2 an Reitende Abteilung, 1 August, 1941 (10 a.m.), BArchF, RS 3-8/36.

[4] Abteilungsbefehl Nr. 28 (Fernschreiben) des Befehlshabers der Reitenden Abteilung des SS-Kavallerieregiments 1, gez. Lombard, vom 1. 8. 1941, 18.03 Uhr (Abschrift), VEJ 7, pp. 227-228 (Dok. 51).

[5] SS-Kav-Brigade 1 an den HSSPF Mitte, Abschlussmeldung, 13.8.41, Unsere Ehre heißt Treue, p.224; cf. Peiper, p.138.

[6] Bericht über Einsatz Pripjet-Sümpfe, Unsere Ehre heißt Treue, p. 230.

[7] Pieper, p.143, citing Vernehmung von Kurt Ziegler vom 8.7. 1964, in: BArchL, B 162/5539, p. c85.

[8] SS-Kav-Brigade 1 an den HSSPF Mitte, Abschlussmeldung, 13.8.41, Unsere Ehre heißt Treue, p.224.

[9] Jürgen Förster, ‘The Wehrmacht and the War of Extermination against the Soviet Union,’ Yad Vashem Studies 14, 1981, p.32, citing Monthly Report, 11.10-10.11.1941, BA-MA RH 26-707/v.1.

[10] EM 155, 11.1.42.

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