Evidence for the Presence of “Gassed” Jews in the Occupied Eastern Territories, Part 3
The following article is a continuation of Thomas Kues's4. Information Furnished by Mainstream Historians . Thomas Kues's analysis takes up the revisionist proposal that Jews sent to the "extermination camps" and allegedly gassed there were in fact deloused and then sent away, the vast majority of them to the occupied eastern territories. The camps therefore actually functioned as transit camps. The transit camp hypothesis is in perfect harmony with documented National Socialist Jewish policy as expressed in official and internal reports, documents on the Jewish transports, and even in classified communications between leading SS members.
4.1. Possible Western Jews among Soviet Partisans
In his book The Second Babylonian Captivity, Steffen Werner presents in support of his theory that the “gassed” Jews were resettled in a part of Belarus the following extract from a book on the Soviet partisan movement published in East Germany in 1976:
“Within the brotherhood of the Belorussian partisans, Czechs and Slovaks, Frenchmen and Yugoslavs, Greeks and Dutchmen, Spaniards and Austrians, Germans and members of other nations fought courageously against fascism. The Communist Party and the Soviet government attached great importance to the heroic fight of these true internationalists. For their antifascist fight alongside the partisan units of Belorussia and for the heroic deeds they accomplished, orders and medals of the USSR were conferred i.a. to 703 Poles, 188 Slovaks, 32 Czechs, 36 Greeks, 25 Germans, 24 Spaniards and 14 Frenchmen.”The presence of Polish nationals in Belarus, Jewish or non-Jewish, could be explained by the territorial history of Belarus as well as the large number of Polish Jews who had escaped there in 1939. While it is not out of the question that partisan fighters from Czechoslovakia could have covered the distance to Belarus, it seems rather unlikely. The presence of fighters from neutral Spain is puzzling. The most likely explanation seems to be that they were antifascists who had fled to the Soviet Union after the victory of Franco. According to a news notice in the German Riga newspaper Deutsche Zeitung im Ostland from 1941 there were 3,000 Spanish nationals fighting in the Red Army. The German nationals could have been German Jews deported to Minsk in 1941-1942 who had escaped from the ghetto, but also in some cases deserted German Wehrmacht soldiers. As for the Dutchmen, Frenchmen, Yugoslavs, it is extremely unlikely that any Waffen-SS soldiers from those nations, who may have served in Belarus, ever deserted to the partisans, and even less likely that any of them would have been accepted by the partisans (generally speaking those groups did not take prisoners).
Were some of these partisans originally Western European settlers recruited by the Germans? In a final report from the Wirtschaftsstab Ost we learn that a total of 608 Dutch farmers, agronomists, gardeners, fishermen and “female laborers” were settled in Reichskommissariat Ostland and the military zone “Wi” from 1942 onward. A further 365 Dutch “pioneer” farmers were employed in the Ukraine between October 1942 and August 1943, chiefly in the districts of Kiev and Shitomir. Similar employment was planned for French, Belgian and even Norwegian farmers but was never carried through; at most some agricultural work was entrusted to Belgian and French companies. The settlers could thus hypothetically account only for the Dutch partisans. On the other hand we know from the same German economic report that the settlers were often attacked by partisans and that 33 (i.e. some 5%) of the OstlandDutchmen as well as 9 of the settlers in the Ukraine were killed by them; a further 297 of the former group returned to the Netherlands long before the German retreat from Belarus and the Baltic states. Considering these figures it seems highly unlikely that more than a rare renegade from this group would have joined the Soviet partisan movement.
A much more likely explanation is that we are dealing with Jews who had been deported east from these countries via the “extermination camps” and later escaped from German camps or ghettos. Also in the case of the Greek nationals, it seems likely that we are dealing with deported Jews.
In another East German publication, a voluminous documentation on the partisan movement during World War II, written by the same Heinz Kühnrich as edited the previously quoted volume, we find the following information:
“On the territory of Belarus 413 Czechs and Slovaks and 211 Yugoslavs fought in the partisan divisions, in the Ukraine there were 1,848 Poles, 418 Czechs and Slovaks, 61 Yugoslavs. At the beginning of 1944, 2,000 Polish citizens fought in the Byelorussian partisan movement. In April 1944 there were more than 5,000 Poles operating on Soviet territory.”The information we find in the note that Kühnrich provides for this passage is still more interesting:
“In more recent research, M.I. Semiryaga presents partially diverging, partially more concrete numbers. According to his investigations, 1,216 foreigners fought in the Byelorussian partisan movement, whereof 413 Czechs and Slovaks (39 fallen), 275 Poles (22), 195 Yugoslavs (2), 69 Hungarians, 61 Frenchmen (4), 31 Belgians (6), 16 Dutchmen, 10 Romanians (9), 6 Italians (1), 3 Spaniards, 2 Bulgarians (1). In the Ukrainian partisan movement there were more than 2,500 foreigners: 1,848 Poles, 418 Czechs and Slovaks, 47 Hungarians, 61 Yugoslavs, 27 Greeks, 18 Frenchmen, 11 Romanians, 6 Bulgarians, 4 Spaniards and others.”Thus there were in total 79 French, 31 Belgian and 16 Dutch nationals among the partisans of Belarus and the Ukraine – or at least in the partisan units surveyed (and one could easily suspect that the Soviet source regarded only pro-Soviet or at least Communist-oriented groups as “partisans”). For a likely origin of the Hungarian nationals, see §3.3.3. Needless to say, it would require access to Semiryaga’s source material – provided that he actually had personal data on the people counted in the above survey – to ascertain whether these individuals were deported Western Jews or not.
4.2. Information on deportations of Polish Jews to Belarus furnished by C. Gerlach
In previous articles of this series I discussed the information provided by German Holocaust historian Christian Gerlach on testimonial evidence confirming the presence of French and Dutch Jews in Minsk. Here I will scrutinize what Gerlach has to say about the deportation of Polish Jews to Belarus. I give here first this passage from Gerlach's book in extenso with enumerated and bracketed notes inserted following each statement I have chosen to comment on.
“Most extensive were probably the deportations of Polish Jews to Belarus. Also in this case it was the question of labor forces. The offices and enterprises of the SS and Police in the so-called “Rußland-Mitte”, roughly corresponding to the eastern [military administered] part of Belarus, were to be concentrated in two cities: Mogilev and Bobruisk. In Mogilev there existed the already described forced labor camp of the HSSPF, in Bobruisk there was in early 1942 a need for manpower in connection with the construction of a large base planned for the Waffen-SS. The head of the supply commander's office of the Waffen-SS and Police of Rußland-Mitte, SS-Standartenführer Georg Martin, got the idea to establish a “KL” (concentration camp) and have Jews sent to it from Warsaw.[i] On the intervention of the RSHA 960 Jewish men and youths, part of them summoned by an appeal, part of them arrested during razzias in the Warsaw Ghetto, were then transported to Bobruisk on 30 May 1942.[ii] On 28 July a further train with Warsaw Jews reached Bobruisk; part of the Jews were sent on to Smolensk.[iii] In Bobruisk the Jews also had to perform work for units of the Wehrmacht.[iv] Of the approximately 1,500 deportees only 91 male Jews were involved in the retreat to Lublin in September 1943, since all the others had fallen victims to the constant Selections, the toil, the starvation and the terrible maltreatment. Moreover there were possibly one or more transports whose passengers were shot immediately at arrival.[v] Among these transports were possibly at least one transport with German Jews.[vi] Of interest in this context are some witness statements, according to which in 1942-43 larger mass shootings of Jews took place in or near Bobruisk with a victim figure in the range of 12,000 to 15,000, which, however, the author has not been able to verify.[vii] This goes to show to how large an extent these events remain unknown to us still today.Below my notes and comments:
i) The source provided by Gerlach is a letter from the supply headquarters (Nachschubskommandantur) of the Waffen SS and Police of Rußland-Mitte to the SS-Führungshauptamt dated 27 March 1942, as well as follow-up letters from 7 and 11 April that same year. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why did Martin specifically request the deportation of Warsaw Jews to Bobruisk? Why not use Belarus Jews as labor, thus eliminating the need for long railway transportations? From an exterminationist viewpoint this seems decidedly odd, but not from a revisionist: As the Warsaw Jews were going to be deported to the Occupied East later that year, it would make sense for Martin to act in advance and ensure that he got the skilled Jews he needed before someone else did. In that case his initiative may have been triggered by the commencement of deportations from the Generalgouvernement (via Bełżec) ten days prior to the writing of the original letter.
ii) The source given for this statement is the diary of Adam Czerniaków, the head of the Warsaw Jewish Council (already mentioned in this article series). The exact route of this transport appears to be unknown.
iii) The only source Gerlach gives here is the testimony of Yehuda Lerner. This witness and the transport in question has already been discussed by me in §3.3.16.
iv) The sources here consist of a testimony from a certain Walther Hansen, a former member of the Kommandeur der Osttruppen who was attached to the Kosaken-Abteilung 600 in Mogilev (IfZ, Zs 405/III, p. 31) and the recollections of a “covert Jew” named Schlomo Spira.
v) It would indeed appear that the transports in May and July 1942 were not the only convoys of Polish Jews to reach Bobruisk. In 1993 the American-Jewish writer Joseph J. Preil interviewed Jack Spiegel, born in Łódź in 1918. According to Preil's summary of the interview, Spiegel was deported in October 1942 from Warsaw to Minsk, and from there sent on to Bobruisk, where he was detained in a camp until March 1944:
“He remembers a ‘horrible welcome.’ The officer said, ‘If you work, all will be fine. If not...’ He took a pistol and killed a person. After two months in Bobruisk, only one hundred of the three hundred men who had been in his bunk remained alive. The others were regularly murdered, especially on Sundays. [...]. In that camp, only ninety-one people were left alive from the original three thousand.By October 1942 the great evacuation of the Warsaw Ghetto had ceased. However, the last Jewish transport from Warsaw in 1942 departed on 21 September (carrying 2,196 Jews). According to mainstream historians these Jews were gassed at Treblinka. Could it be that Jack Spiegel was part of the 21 September 1942 convoy but erroneously remembered the departure as having taken place in October? It seems very unlikely, on the other hand, that Spiegel would have erroneously recalled a May or July transport as having taken place in October.
One should recall here that Jewish resistance leaders admonished the Jews of the Warsaw ghetto to not believe in letters from the deportees, letters according to which the writers were detained “in labor camps near Minsk or Bobruisk”.
Yitzhak Arad gives a considerably higher estimate for the number of Warsaw Jews deported to Bobruisk:
“In the course of the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto, 3,000-4,000 of its residents were moved in the summer of 1942 to the Forest Camp (Waldlager) in the woods near the city of Bobruysk. This camp served as an SS supply base. The Jews traveled by train from Warsaw to the Bobruysk railway station, and from there were driven in trucks to the Waldlager. In the camp itself these Jews were separated and kept in an area surrounded by barbed wire, and put to work under inhuman conditions. Executions in the camp began in the early fall of 1943, and by the end of summer-early fall of 1943, most of the Jewish inmates of the Waldlager had already been shot. Ditches dug along the Bobruysk-Minsk railway line served as the execution site.”Curiously, in the German edition of the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust the camp in Bobruisk is described as “a transit camp for Jews from the West”.
vi) For this information Gerlach lists two witnesses: a testimony from an “H.S.” who claimed to have participated in the killing of a transport of 1,500 Jews from Germany, and the statement of “H.K.”, who testified to having had a conversation in the Bobruisk labor camp with a Jew from Mönchengladbach. As already noted (3.3.16) the Jews from Mönchengladbach were deported to Auschwitz, Riga, Łódź and Theresienstadt. From the latter two locations German Jews were sent to Chełmno, Auschwitz, and Treblinka.
vii) The sources for this consist of references to three German court witnesses, as well as a letter and a court testimony left by a certain Reinhold Grabow, an official of the economic administration, the latter being partially reproduced in a well-known collection of testimonies and documents. In the reproduced passage the location is indeed Bobruisk or its vicinity, but the timeframe specified by Grabow is not “1942-43” but specifically a period of some days in April or May 1942, and the nationality of the Jewish victims is not mentioned. According to the official version of events all Jews in Bobruisk and its vicinity had been exterminated by November 1941; there thus should have been no Jewish massacres for Grabow to witness. Now we may ask ourselves: If the massacre described really did take place, and if the Jews that were murdered had been brought to Bobruisk from Poland, why had not the Germans killed these Jews on-site in Poland? Moreover: Why kill all these Jews if there was “a need for manpower” in the Bobruisk area during the same period (as mentioned by Gerlach)? While interesting as an anomaly, Grabow’s testimony clearly has little to say about deportations from Poland to Belarus. What is important here is not Grabow’s statement itself, but Gerlach’s comment on it, which implies that this major expert on the fate of the Jews of Belarus believes it fully possible that tens of thousands of Polish Jews were deported to the area of Bobruisk in 1942-1943 – a notion that is clearly irreconcilable with orthodox holocaust historiography. Gerlach’s speculation is no doubt informed by the fact that Bobruisk frequently appears in reports and supposedly forged letters as a destination of Jews evacuated from Warsaw in 1942 (cf. §3.3.16, 3.6.).
viii) The transport of 1,000 Polish Jews arriving in Minsk on 31 July 1942 – one week after the opening of the Treblinka “death camp” and the beginning of the great evacuation of the Warsaw Ghetto – has already been discussed by Jürgen Graf and Carlo Mattogno.
In a telegram sent 31 July 1942 the Generalkommissar for Weissruthenien, Wilhelm Kube wrote to his superior, theReichskommissar for the Ostland, Heinrich Lohse, about the arrival of 1,000 Warsaw Jews. These Jews had been sent to the Minsk military airport without himself or the “relevant leader of the SS and Police” being informed in advance, Kube protested, maintaining that the Jews could cause outbreaks of epidemics and might also contribute to partisan activity. On 5 August Lohse replied, stating that “the practical realization of the solution of the Jewish problem is exclusively a matter for the police”, that protests were thus futile, and that it was Kube’s responsibility to see to that the herding together (Zusammenballung) of Jews did not create a threat of epidemics.
While it cannot be proven at this point that the convoy in question passed through Treblinka the documented fact that it took place proves beyond any doubt that Warsaw Jews who were deported during the period of operation of the Treblinka “death camp” ended up to the east of it, across the Bug River.
That Kube in his 31 July 1942 telegram protested against “further independent import of Jews” (weiterer selbständiger Judeneinfuhr) implies the implementation of other transports in cooperation with his authority, and that the arrival of further transports might be acceptable provided that he be notified beforehand. Considering the date of this transport it most likely departed from Warsaw during the first week of the ghetto evacuation. Could it be that this was the first of a series of transports of Warsaw Jews to Minsk, but that information concerning it had not yet reached Kube by the end of July? One should recall here that the first commandant of the Treblinka “extermination camp”, Dr. Irmfried Eberl, was reportedly sacked due to incompetence.
That the deportation of Jews to the occupied eastern territories was to continue regardless of the protests of local satraps is clear also from another incident. In his footnote to the discussed passage Gerlach writes that “A further complaint of Kube’s regarding a transport of 400 Polish Jews to Baranovichi depended on false information.” The document referred to, however, does not concern Polish Jews, but Reich Jews. On 11 August 1942 theGeneralkommissar of Weissruthenien again wrote to the Reichskommissar of the Ostland, stating that
“The Gebietskommissar of Baranowitsche has reported to me that the OT-Gruppe Nürnberg, Construction Office Baranowitsche, has been allotted 400 Jews from the Reich for labor by their superior administrative office on the instruction of assistant secretary of state [Ministerialdirektor] Schönlebe.
Illustration 1: The 11 August 1942 letter from the Generalkommissar of Weissruthenien to the Reichskommissar for the Ostland.
Illustration 2: Lohse’s letter from 24 August.
Illustration 3: Letter from 30 September 1942 on the allowance of further transports to Reichskommissariat Ostland.
Second, it follows from the third letter that continued transports to Reichskommissariat Ostland were expected as late as 30 September 1942. This does not fit very well with the established version of events, according to which at the most three further transports arrived following that date (in October and November 1942). However, as we have already seen in §3.3.14, the labor administration department of the Gebietskommissariat Riga emphatically recommended in April 1943 the influx of foreign Jews into the Generalbezirk of Latvia, which was a constituent part of the Reichskommissariat Ostland.
The suggestion regarding a “central office” for the handling and decision-making vis-à-vis the Jewish transports to the Ostland brings up an important question, namely how the resettlement of the Jews was practically administered. From documents such as the correspondence of Ganzenmüller and Wolff and the Reuter memo it appears that the transports to the transit camps were carried out according to schedules, with a set number of Jews sent to the Reinhardt camps daily or weekly. Testimonial as well as archeological evidence indicates that the arrivals in these three camps underwent some form of registration. According to a 15 November 1942 report on Treblinka the deportees after their arrival at the camp were subdivided according to their professions:
“To make the Jews believe that actual classification according to trades would take place at the arrival-square in order to send occupational groups for labor, they placed small signs with the inscriptions: Tailors, Shoemakers, Carpenters, etc. It goes without saying that such segregation never took place.”Then there is the documentary and testimonial evidence showing that transports of Jewish skilled workers were specifically requested by various authorities and organizations, in particular Organisation Todt and affiliated enterprises (e.g. Baltöl). Most likely the personnel in the transit camps and Globocnik’s Reinhardt organization were focused on the practical handling of the operation. As for the decisionmaking and overall logistics, the correspondence of Kube and Lohse suggests that it was far from ideally organized and moreover carried out with little cognizance on the part of the local civilian administrations. Hopefully future research will shed more light on this issue.
ix) This statement is based on the March 1960 interrogation of “H.W.”, a member of the SS-Zentralbauleitung Rußland-Mitte, the interrogation of Karl Buchner from October 1945, as well as a statement from the Minsk ghetto inmate Anna Krasnoperko and the 1962 testimony of “E.S. (Trostenets survivor)”, no doubt identical with Ernst Schlesinger, who claims to have been deported from Dachau to Maly Trostenets in June 1942. The presence of Polish Jews in Trostenets is further corroborated by the testimony of the inmate Isak Grünberg (§3.3.10.).
x) As source for this is given a reference to an early post-war testimony from none other than the already mentioned City Commissar of Minsk, Wilhelm Janetzke, a man who certainly was informed about the Jewish population of the city. That Jews from Poland had been deported to Minsk in great numbers was apparently acknowledged as a common fact by the local population, because in an ”Address of the citizens of Minsk to Stalin” published in Pravda in August 1944, we read the following:
“The German fascist invaders had driven 50,000 people from Minsk and the surrounding districts into the so-called ghetto; in addition, over 40,000 Jews had been brought to the Minsk ghetto from Hamburg, Warsaw and Lodz.”The mention of Łódź besides Warsaw indicates that Minsk served as the destination for transports from not only Treblinka, but also from Chełmno. As seen below (§4.5.) Zionist authorities had been informed in spring 1942 of deportations of Jews from Łódź to Minsk.
Gerlach’s comment that “this goes to show to how large an extent these events remain unknown to us still today” perfectly sums up the situation. Here we have a prominent holocaust historian who admits that tens of thousands of Polish Jews may have been sent to Minsk, Bobruisk, Mogilev and other locations in Generalbezirk Weissruthenien, and that we know little about the number and nature of the Jewish transports to these locations. In light of this, how are we to take seriously the official claim that no mass resettlement of Polish Jews to the east took place, and that documented instances of transports of Polish Jews to Minsk and elsewhere constitute singular exceptions?
4.2.2. Gerlach on Plans for Deportations to Mogilev
In a 1997 article Christian Gerlach puts forth the hypothesis that the German authorities in late 1941 were planning to open a camp in Mogilev in eastern Belarus, to where Jews from western and central Europe were to be deported. Gerlach begins his discussion of this “labor and extermination camp” by quoting a statement made by Heydrich at a 10 October 1941 conference in Prague on “Jewish questions” in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Heydrich here states that the heads of Einsatzgruppen B and C, “SS-Brigadeführer Nebe and Rasch could take Jews into the camps for communist prisoners in the operational area. According to [a] statement from SS-SturmbannführerEichmann this is already in process [eingeleitet].” Gerlach comments:
“For a long time no one believed that that camp existed, so Heydrich’s remark seemed to make little sense. Historians have ignored his comment or interpreted it as camouflage for the ‘destruction in the East.’ But such a camp in fact existed, not under the control of Einsatzgruppe B (headquartered in Smolensk) but the Higher SS and Police Leader (HSSPF) ‘Russia Center,’ Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski, who had his headquarters in Mogilev. This camp had been set up shortly before Heydrich’s meeting. The commander of the rear area of Army Group Center, General von Schenckendorff, informed his troops that, ‘Since 29 September a labor camp for suspicious vagabond civilians (men, women, teenagers) has been set up by the Higher SS and Police Leader in Mogilev. If arrested civilians are not brought to the next POW camp, they must be taken to the labor camp. Similar camps are planned in Vitebsk and later in Smolensk.’”Smolensk as well as Vitebsk and Mogilev were located in the operational area, i.e. the conquered territories under military jurisdiction.
Gerlach suggests – based exclusively on testimonial evidence – that plans for the installation of a homicidal gas chamber in the Mogilev camp were hatched following Himmler’s (documented) visit to Mogilev on 23-25 October 1941. He goes on to write:
“The general context suggests that Himmler's journey to Mogilev and Smolensk had something to do with plans for deportations of Jews. On October 23 he wanted to meet the Generalkommissar for so-called ‘White Ruthenia,’ Wilhelm Kube, and possibly intended to officially inform him on the planned transports to Minsk. At about the same time civil administration officials in Riga and Berlin were officially informed. It is not known if a meeting between Himmler and Kube took place, but in any case the Reichsführer met the SS and Police Leader of White Ruthenia, Carl Zenner, in Mogilev. Zenner may have given him a report on the massacre of Borissov carried out two days before by a unit of Security Police and SD from Minsk under the command of Zenner, who was not in charge of the city. [...]. In Borissov there were rumors among the civil population ‘that the houses of the Jews which have become empty now shall be prepared for Jews from Germany, who shall also be liquidated like the Jews from Borissov earlier!’”Gerlach next outlines a vague yet intriguing hypothesis posed by two other holocaust historians:
“Götz Aly has argued that the German authorities pursued at times a project to deport a portion of European Jewry by ship to ‘reception camps in the East’Gerlach goes on to mention that “on September 11, 1941, the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle (VoMi) began looking for ethnic Germans in their camps who had come from the Soviet Union and were ‘inland boatsmen with exact knowledge of the Russian streams and canals’” because the occupied Soviet territories’ railways were overburdened. Aly also suggested that the Jews were to be brought to Mogilev on the rivers Pripet and Dnieper; he could not prove it, but reached the conclusion deductively. Richard Breitman has also considered the possibility that Himmler sent for Eichmann during a visit to Kiev on October 2 and 3, to talk to him about shipping Jews to the German-occupied part of the Soviet Union. Kiev is situated on the river Dnieper as is Mogilev. In fact, there is another hint of this plan. and that “Various sources emphasized how important and urgent Allihn's mission was.” According to Gerlach, the only “important Soviet canal” conquered by the Germans was the Dnieper-Bug canal, between Kobryn and Pinsk.
Aly’s source that Jews were to be sent by ships to “reception camps in the East” is a note of the chief of the “Judenreferat” at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Franz Rademacher, dated 25 October 1941, which refers to the fate of the remaining Serbian Jews. As already mentioned in the first installment of this article series (§2.4.5.) these Jewish women, children and elderly were allegedly murdered in “gas vans” near the Sava River in March–May 1942. This could be a hint that they were in fact sent along this river, which joins the Danube. A possible alternative destination for these Jews could thus be Romania, and likely Transnistria. Needless to say they could have been brought by ship to Belarus, something which indicates that the German plans for deportations of Jews using waterways were not limited to the Dnieper-Bug canal.
The apparent plans for waterway mass deportations using barges or similar eventually came to naught, at least if we are to believe our cautiously semi-heretical German Holocaust historian:
“The ‘great’ projects did not succeed, the economic aims failed, as did plans for deportations of Jews by ship, if they had ever existed. There was no slack in the German war economy – so there was not only a shortage of railway engines and cars but also ships. In the summer of 1942, Fritz Allihn was relieved of his position by the Reichskommissar of Ukraine, after his methods alienated other authorities. (…). By that time the partisans were able to paralyze the Bug-Dnieper almost completely anyway. By the end of March 1942 its extension was officially considered unimportant to the war effort, and the project was shelved. The Dnieper-Bug Canal remained silted up. Only a few ships ever passed this waterway on a trial basis under German rule, and even that was possible only during floods. Shipping on the Dnieper from the South was decisively hindered because the Soviets had blown up the huge dam near Dniepropetrovsk.The testimonies concerning the presence of “German or Polish Jews” in Mogilev which Gerlach refers to are 1) a “letter of R.S., 25 March 1959, and his interrog[ation], 5 August 1958” which reportedly speak of “a supposed execution of 300 German Jews in October 1941”, and 2) a “Report of M. Nicaise, Belgian Consul in Stockholm, based on an eyewitness account of August 1944, US National Archives, Record Group 226, Plain Number File, Document 102832(NND 750140”. As for the first source, the date of the alleged execution (at least one week before the first direct transport of Reich Jews to the East) clearly speaks against its veracity. As for the second source the author has not yet been able to access it. It is worth noting, however, that according to Yitzhak Arad, 400 Jews “from Baranovichi or from the General Government region” were brought to the Mogilev civilian prisoner camp (Zivilgefangenenlager) sometime in 1942. Unfortunately Arad provides no source for this statement. Gerlach writes in an endnote that besides the two testimonies already mentioned, “There are other hints at the arrival of German Jews in Borissov and Bobruisk, but no proof”.
In the context of waterway transports of Jews it should be pointed out that both Treblinka and Sobibór are located less than 10 km away from the Bug River, which formed part of the 1939 Soviet-German demarcation line. Although most likely the Jews transited east via these two camps were sent on trains, the possibility that some Jews may have been sent away on ships should not be entirely excluded. It should be recalled here that more than 100,000 Romanian Jews were shipped across the Dniestr in the period September 1941 – June 1942.
4.3. Wendy Lower on the 12 January 1942 Koch-Prützmann Memoranda
In a book from 2005, Holocaust historian Wendy Lower mentions that Reichskommissar Erich Koch and the SS and Police leader Hans-Adolf Prützmann in early 1942 were involved in drawing up plans for the deportation of German Jews to the Ukraine:
“Beyond Ukraine’s borders, the genocidal approach to ghettoization was also applied to Western European Jewry. At the Lodz, Riga, and Minsk ghettos, for example, German Jewish deportees stayed briefly before being shot or gassed. Koch and Higher SS and Police Leader Hans-Adolf Prützmann (Jeckeln’s successor) considered Ukraine as a possible dumping ground for Europe’s Jews. In a joint memorandum of 12 January 1942, Koch and Prützmann stated that the policy for establishing ghettos was still not defined, but they asked the regional commissars as well as the SS-policemen to identify possible future ghettos near railway links where Reich Jews could be brought. As it turned out, Reich Jews were not deported to Ukraine, but the Koch-Prützmann memo reveals that by late 1941 or early 1942 ghettos in Ukraine and elsewhere in Eastern Europe had been transformed into something unprecedented in Europe’s long history of anti-Judaism. Under the Nazis ghettos became transit centers and holding 'pens' for facilitating the mass murder.”Lower provides the following source and elucidation:
“Joint memo from Koch and Prützmann to the Generalkommissare, BdO,It is interesting to compare the above information with a letter from Eichmann dated 14 April 1942. Some two months earlier, at the beginning of February 1942, Romanian authorities deported 10,000 Jews from the Romanian-occupied western part of the Ukraine known as Transnistria over the Bug River at Vosnessensk into the Generalkommissariat Nikolajew, which was part of Reichskommissariat Ukraine. The Romanians had planned for the expulsion of a further 60,000 Jews, but this was promptly stopped by the Germans, since the Romanians apparently had never asked the Germans (or at least not the right German authorities) for permission in the first place. In his letter Eichmann made the following comment on the event (emphasis added):
“(...) through this planless and premature [vorzeitige] expulsion of Romanian Jews into the Occupied eastern territories the already ongoing evacuation of the German Jews is strongly inhibited [stärkstens gefährdet].”Here Eichmann not only implies that the Jews collected by the Romanians in Transnistria would eventually be moved further east – something which I will return to later on in this survey – but also states that the uncontrolled expulsion of Romanian Jews into RK Ukraine would “inhibit” the “already ongoing” evacuation of Jews from the German Reich. From the viewpoint of mainstream historiography this does not make much sense, as it denies transports of German Jews to the Ukraine. If considered together with the memoranda referenced by Lower, however, it makes perfect sense and moreover indicates that the plans for such transports were still on the table by mid-April 1942, if not later. Needless to say, it would be a major obstacle for the Germans, and the RSHA in particular, if ghettos in the Ukraine that they were preparing for Reich Jews were suddenly swamped by 70,000 Romanian Jews arriving unannounced.
As no German Jews were being “gassed”, i.e. transited east, during the first four months of 1942, it seems likely that by “ongoing evacuation” Eichmann was referring to the initial stage of the deportation, i.e. the transfer of Reich and Protectorate Jews to Warsaw, Łódź and the Lublin District, from where they were to continue east by way of the “extermination camps”.
It may be of importance that the Jews expelled from Transnistria in February 1942 crossed the Bug intoGeneralkommissariat Nikolajew, near the Black Sea. This indicates that they crossed over not far from the town of Ochakov (Oceacov), where it is reported that 14,000 Dutch and Belgian Jews had arrived by April 1943 (cf. §3.7.5). Was Ochakov a transit point for Jews deported from Transnistria to Reichskommissariat Ukraine?
4.4. Dieter Pohl
Christian Gerlach, Wendy Lower and Götz Aly are not the only exterminationists who have made mention of concrete plans for the deportation of Reich Jews to Belarus and the Ukraine. Holocaust historian Dieter Pohl describes the pre-Barbarossa plans thus:
“In conjunction with preparations for the campaign against the Soviet Union, early in 1941 new plans arose in Berlin for the ‘Solution of the Jewish Question.’ For the first time, however, they concerned more than the Jews in Germany or Poland. Under consideration were plans to expel all Jews from territories under German rule to the occupied Soviet Union, either to the Pripyat marshes in Belorussia or to the Arctic Sea. Accordingly, on 17 March 1941 Hitler remarked to Hans Frank that all Jews were to be expelled from the General Government eastward. Thereafter the General Government administration halted until further notice all plans for Jews. In particular, plans to construct more ghettos were put on hold.”In another text Pohl writes:
“On 10 October  Heydrich himself was still speaking about camps in the operational area ofEinsatzgruppe Commander Rasch to which Jews could be deported. Up to the present these hints have not been followed up, nor are any corresponding deportations known. It is a fact that in January 1942 the deportation of Jews into the Reichskommissariat was foreseen, in particular to Shepetovka, where they were to be put to work building roads. Apparently this intention was stopped by the Gebietskommissarresponsible for the area.”The town of Shepetovka is located in western Ukraine, between Rovno and Zhitomir. The source given by Pohl for this “apparently” abandoned deportation plan consists of two documents, one from a Ukrainian archive, another from a German archive, together with an interrogation statement dating from 1959. The author has not yet had the opportunity to view these documents. This issue clearly warrants further research.
4.5. Jean-Claude Favez's Study on the Red Cross and the Holocaust
In 1988 French historian Jean-Claude Favez published Une mission impossible?, an interesting study on the International Committee of the Red Cross and its involvement in wartime aid operations targeting Jews in Europe, and in particular the contemporaneous knowledge of the ICRC concerning the German treatment of Jews. In 1999 an English translation of Favez's book appeared under the title The Red Cross and the Holocaust.
In Favez's survey of wartime ICRC memoranda and documents concerning the Jews we find the following three passages relevant to the theme of our study:
As for the “French-speaking Jews” seen in Riga this fits well with the 16 October 1942 report in Israelitisches Wochenblatt für die Schweiz according to which “of late, transports of Jews from Belgium and other western European countries were observed in Riga, but they moved on immediately to other destinations” (§3.1.2) as well as the statements from A. Jablonski (§3.2.3), Szema G. (§3.3.14.) and Friedrich Jeckeln (§3.3.5.) concerning transports of Jews from Belgium and/or France to the Riga area. It is worth noting that the French-speaking Jews were seen “herded together”, implying detainment in camps or ghettos.
4.6. Walter Laqueur's The Terrible Secret
In his 1980 book The Terrible Secret holocaust historian Walter Laqueur chronicles how the “facts” concerning the alleged mass extermination of Jews were disseminated during the war years, and the reasons why these “facts” were more often than not disbelieved or at least met with cautious skepticism. In his survey of contemporary news reports Laqueur manages to exclude those most blatantly contradicting the extermination camp hypothesis, but there is still one passage of interest to us, namely his description of the 1942 reports of Zionist delegate Meleh “Noi” Neustadt:
“May 1942 he [Neustadt] returned to Palestine and in two long addresses [on 25 and 27 May], in closed session, he gave the most detailed and authoritative account available at the time to the Jewish leadership.Laqueur goes on to remark There was no one better informed at the time. Noi had established contact from Turkey with fifty Jewish communities in Poland and with virtually every other European country. He had discovered, much to his surprise, that with certain exceptions (the Baltic countries and eastern Poland) communication could easily be established. Air letters from occupied countries took ten to twelve days, cables were sent and received, and one could even book long-distance telephone calls. Noi noted that Jews in Eastern Europe did not like to use the telegraph so as to not attract attention. On the other hand, he said that inside Nazi-occupied Europe Jewish emissaries were frequently traveling from one place to another, that illegal newspapers were published and that there were regional and even nationwide meetings. that “Chelmno was not taken seriously and the beginning of 'evacuation' from most Polish ghettos was not reported” - elsewhere he points out that “Chelmno (...) was opened on 8 December 1941; the news was received in Warsaw within less than four weeks and published soon afterwards in the underground press.”
But Neustadt did indeed report ghetto deportations: the evacuation of “unproductive elements” from the Łódz ghetto to “Minsk, Kovno and Riga” – a population transfer which is unknown to exterminationist historians but which is confirmed, as for Latvia and Lithuania, by the diaries of Kruk (§3.3.1.) and Tory (§3.3.19.) and in regards to Minsk by the testimony of Nikolayev Prilezhaev. One should also recall the above quoted (§4.2.) “Address of the citizens of Minsk to Stalin” mentioning the deportation of Łódz Jews to the Minsk Ghetto.
The deportation of these Jews from the Warthegau District to the Occupied eastern territories no doubt went via Chełmno, even though the name of this transit camp may not have been known to Neustadt’s informants. Laqueur’s remark is further flawed by the fact that by the beginning of May 1942 only two other major Polish ghettos had been affected by deportations to “extermination camps”, namely Lublin and Lvóv (to Bełżec).
As for the “bad news” reported by Neustadt it must be noted that Croatian Jews by that time had not yet been deported to Auschwitz. In Romania the Jews of the annexed Bessarabia and Bukovina had been deported to crowded and disease-ridden ghettos in Romanian-occupied Transnistria.
Neustadt's description of how easy it was to establish contacts with Jews in German-occupied Europe speaks for itself. Would the Germans really have allowed this situation if they were trying to conceal a mass extermination program directed against Europe's Jews?
In the conclusion to his book Laqueur maintains that:
“After July 1942 (the deportations from Warsaw) it is more and more difficult to understand that there still was widespread confusion about the Nazi designs among Jews in Poland, and that the rumours were not recognized for what they were – certainties.”In fact, as shown in this article series, the Jews in occupied Poland had ample reason to believe that they were indeed being transferred to the occupied eastern territories. It would thus appear that the Zionist delegate Meleh Neustadt in 1942 was more accurate and objective in regards to these events than the later-lionized historian Laqueur thirty-eight years later.
Survey: JTA Daily News Bulletin reports on deportations to the Occupied Eastern Territories
The 1942 reports of Meleh Neustadt raise the question: What did contemporary Zionist leaders know about the fates of the deported Jews? This question could no doubt only be answered by research into archives that skeptical inquirers are barred from consulting. However, some hints may be gleaned from what was reported by one of the major Jewish-Zionist news sources of that era, the Daily News Bulletin of the New York-based Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA). Below I will present a number of news items relating to the deportation of Jews to the Occupied Eastern Territories in chronological order interspersed with brief commentary.
25 September 1941 (p. 1):
“Nazis plan to transfer Polish Jews to occupied Soviet territory20 October 1941 (p. 1):
“Thousands of Jews Expelled from Germany to Pinsk Swamps in PolandAs already mentioned Pinsk was part of Poland until 1939 but was at this time part of Reichskommissariat Ukraine. According to orthodox historiography the Reich Jews deported to the Łódz ghetto in late 1941 were sent to be gassed in Chełmno beginning May 1942. In an article published by the JTA two days later (22 October 1941, p. 1) the same information about deportations to Pinsk was repeated. In the issue from the following day (23 October, p. 2) the following is reported:
“Expelled Jews Will Be Used to Drain Marshes, Nazi Officials Announce10 February 1942 (p. 3):
“Nazis proceeding with plan for ‘Jewish reservation,’ Berlin reportsSee §3.1.2 of this series for an October 1942 report on plans for a “Jewish settlement rayon for all the Jews of Western Europe” in “the former Polish-Russian border zone”.
26 March 1942 (p. 1):
“Lublin and Cracow Jews will spend passover digging trenches on the Nazi-Soviet frontA shorter version of this piece of news appeared in the June 1942 issue of Contemporary Jewish Record, cf. §3.7.1 of this series for commentary.
29 May 1942 (p. 3):
“Germans Will Rule over Deported Slovakian Jews in Concentration Camps in Eastern EuropeAs will be seen further on in this article series, the above report fits perfectly with a plan for the deportation of the Jews of Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary reportedly presented to the Romanian government in the autumn of 1941 by the German Legation in Bucharest, and according to which these Jewish populations were to be sent to the eastern part of Ukraine.
21 June 1942 (p. 1):
“200,000 More Jews herded into labor camps in Poland following new raidsWhile this article does not make it clear whether Polish Jews were sent from the Generalgouvernment or the Warthegau into the former Polish territory that had become part of the Reichskommissariat Ostland, one thing is noteworthy about it, namely the statement that Jews were sent to work at draining the Pinsk swamps in southern Belarus/northern Ukraine. On 28 April 1942 the JTA reported that “Jews in occupied Wolhynia will be sent to work in Pinsk swamps”, the source for this being the pro-German Ukrainian newspaper Krakiwski Visti. Drainage work in the Pinsk swamps is a recurrent theme in early reports on the Jewish deportations.
15 July 1942 (p. 1):
“330,000 German Jews deported to Russia; deportations from Vienna resumedUp to 7 July 1942 a total of 43,341 Jews from the Reich, including the Protectorate, had been deported directly to the Occupied Eastern Territories. A further 10,933 Reich Jews were sent east via Chełmno in late spring/summer 1942 (cf. §3.3.1). Some 33,500 Jews from the Reich and the Protectorate were transferred via Sobibór in the period April-June 1942. Some additional thousands of Reich Jews may have been deported via Bełżec and Treblinka (during its first weeks of operation). It is clear however that at most only some 100,000 Reich Jews could have reached the Occupied Eastern Territories by this point in time. The figure of 330,000 deportees mentioned in this news item is therefore much exaggerated.
20 July 1942 (p. 1):
“Jews of Europe will be deported to ‘colonial reservations,’ Nazi chief saysThe above statement of Rosenberg‘s, if correctly reported, could be taken as an indication that the Madagascar plan, or a similar but unknown plan regarding a Siberian “colony”, had not been shelved completely but rather deferred until the projected German victory. It is worth noting in this context the following item which appeared in the JTADaily News Bulletin on 22 March 1942:
“Hitler Backs Japan’s Demand for Madagascar; Urges 20,000 Shanghai Jews Be Sent There26 July 1942 (p. 1):
“Nazis begin large-scale deportations of Dutch Jews to Poland and occupied Russia28 July 1942 (p. 1):
“Women, children, aged massacred in Warsaw ghetto as Nazis send Jews to Russian frontA mere two days later, on 29 July 1942, the JTA reported, based on the statement of a Polish government-in-exile spokesman, that the deported Warsaw Jews were “executed in the woods”, with no details given regarding the method of killing (p. 1).
18 August 1942 (p. 1):
”Special police for Jews in unoccupied France demanded by GermanyIn the issue from the following day it was mentioned in passing (19 August, p. 3) that Dutch-Jewish girls “are being sent to German army camps on the Russian front”.
4 September 1942 (p. 2):
“Nazis in Holland plan to deport young Jews to Russia, others to Germany15 September 1942 (p. 1):
“All Jews between 18 and 65 will be deported from Poland20 September 1942 (p. 1):
“Unprecedented pogroms raging in Poland; large scale deportations of Jews reportedThese Jews were “gassed” at Treblinka and Bełżec if we are to believe the official version of events. In the book-length WJC report Hitler’s Ten-Year War on the Jews, published in August 1943, the report mentioned is attributed to an “Obersturmführer Hiegs”, of whom there exists no trace. “Ferdinand Riege” likewise appears to be an invented or misrendered name.
25 September 1942 (p. 3):
“Nazis drive Jews and Poles hundreds of miles on foot to devastated Russian areasIt is a known fact that the mass expulsions of the Jews of Bessarabia and Bukovina into the Transnistrian “reservation” by Romanian authorities were often undertaken on foot. This involved the crossing of the Dniestr river via either bridges or barges. It does not seem impossible that the Germans in charge of the deportations in some exceptional cases had to resort to a similar manner of transportation, driving columns of Jews across the Bug river.
4 October 1942 (p. 1):
“Gestapo raids Warsaw synagogues; seizes 2,000 Jews for forced labor6 October 1942 (p. 1):
“Trains with Jewish deportees leave Belgium for Nazi-held Ukraine7 October 1942 (p. 3):
“Only 100,000 Jews left by the Nazis in Warsaw ghetto; mass-deportations continue15 October 1942 (p. 1):
“Nazis resume mass-deportations of Jews from Holland and Belgium; suicides reported16 October 1942 (p. 1):
“Train carrying 20,000 Jews deported from France arrives in Bessarabia; many deadA condensed version of this report appeared in the December 1942 issue of Contemporary Jewish Record, cf. §3.7.2 for commentary. By the beginning of October 1942 a total of 18,650 French Jews had been “gassed” at Auschwitz, i.e. transited east. The deportations from France were then halted for a month until the beginning of 4 November 1942. Could this temporary stop in transports possibly have been due to the catastrophe described in the above news report? Needless to say it stands to reason that all these Jews cannot have been sent to Bessarabia in one single convoy, as implied by the article.
22 October 1942 (p. 2):
“1,850 Jews from Poland and Western Europe executed by Nazis in Smolensk areaSmolensk is located in western Russia, not far from the border with Belarus. As we have already seen (§4.2, 3.3.16) Polish as well as likely also German Jews were deported to this city to do forced labor.
30 October 1942 (p. 1):
“Nazis deport Jewish women from Belgium; many sent to coal mines in Silesia1 November 1942 (p. 1):
“Trains with Jewish deportees from France, Belgium, Holland continue to reach RumaniaAs already mentioned, these Jews would necessarily have reached Romania and Transnistria via Auschwitz.
6 November 1942 (p. 1):
“Norwegian Jews will be deported to Lithuania; German refugees sent back to Reich20 November 1942 (p. 2):
“Nazis decide to make Latvia ‘judenrein’; deport all Jews from Riga ghettoWhile orthodox historiography knows of the deportation of a large number of Reich Jews to Riga, it reports no transports there of Dutch or Belgian Jews.
22 December 1942 (p. 1):
“Nazi press reports Sosnowiec is ‘judenrein’; Jews slaughtered in RownoRovno (Rivne) is located in northwestern Ukraine. It was part of Reichskommissariat Ukraine as the capital ofGeneralbezirk Volhynia-Podolia.
7 January 1943 (p. 1):
“Deported Warsaw Jews held by Nazis in Pinsk district isolated from worldOnce again the Pinsk region appears as the destination of Jews allegedly gassed at Treblinka.
11 April 1943 (p. 1):
“5,000 Greek Jews reach Poland en route to unknown destinationThe first convoys of Greek Jews departing for Auschwitz in spring 1943 followed the route Salonika–Belgrade–Zagreb–Vienna–Auschwitz. Another Salonika transport departing in late March 1943 travelled the route Salonika–Vrbca–Cracow–Małkinia–Treblinka. The transports from Bulgarian-occupied Thrace to Treblinka went the route Salonika–Bulgaria–Vienna–Cracow. According to the official version of events none of these Jews ever reached Lvov (Lemberg) in Eastern Galicia (then part of the Generalgouvernement, now in Ukraine).
It is worth noting in this context that according to Reuben Ainsztein German as well as Belgian, Dutch and Yugoslavian Jews were detained in the Janow/Janovska labor camp near Lvov. Did this camp serve as a second transit station for Jews being routed from Auschwitz and other “extermination camps” to the Occupied Eastern Territories? Belgian revisionist Jean-Marie Boisdefeu has also collected a number of indicia pointing to the anomalous presence of Belgian and French Jews in Eastern Galicia.
In the issue of 15 April we read regarding the deported Greek Jews that “it is not known to where these deportees were sent, after they were taken from the reception camps at Lwow” (“45,000 Greek Jews deported to Poland; homes, property confiscated”, p. 2).
21 November 1943 (p. 2):
“Jews deported from Aegean islands; more Jews wanted for Minsk fortifications23 November 1943 (p. 2):
“Germans reported planning to deport 15,000 Italian Jews to Russia for forced laborWhile it might seem unlikely that the German authorities would have planned as late as in November 1943 to deport tens of thousands of Italian Jews to Belarus, this possibility should not be wholly rejected, especially considering the well-documented fact that several thousands of Hungarian Jews were sent to Latvia and Estonia in the summer of 1944 (cf. §2.2.3). The city of Minsk was held by German forces until the end of June 1944. In February 1944 it was reported by Polish underground sources that “3,000 Italian Jews arrived at the Trawniki labor camp last Nov. 15”. If the Italian Jews indeed reached Trawniki in the Lublin district, they could easily have continued by train from there to Minsk.
9 July 1944 (p. 2):
“Deportation of All Jews from Hungary by July 15 is Feared by King of SwedenDvinsk is the Russian name of Daugavpils, a city in eastern Latvia (Dünaburg in German). For a witness statement relating the deportation of Dutch Jews to the Daugavpils area, see §3.3.8 of this series. According to the official version of events the Daugavpils ghetto was liquidated in May 1942, while the last few remaining Jews in the city were transferred to Riga in October 1943. The liquidation of the Dvinsk ghetto and the deportation of “the 11,000 Jews remaining there” to an “unknown destination” was originally reported by the JTA on 6 July (p. 2).
16 August 1944 (p. 2):
“About 1000 Jews Survive in Kaunas; Many Burned Alive by Germans Before Their RetreatThe “many thousands” of Jews who were brought to the Kaunas ghetto “from western Europe” had been mentioned previously by JTA in passing on 3 August 1944 (p. 3). This news item stated that the retreating Germans had murdered 10,000 Jews in Kaunas (Kovno).
20 August 1944 (p. 2):
“Moscow Jewish Committee issues report on Nazi extermination of Jews in Kaunas22 August 1944 (p. 2):
“Latvian Partisans Rescue 600 Jews; 4,000 Jews Held in Baltic Coastal Town“Krestinga” is almost certainly a misspelling of Kretinga (in German Krottingen) a Lithuanian coastal city some 25 km north of Klaipeda (Memel). There existed a subcamp to the Riga-Kaiserwald concentration camp in Kretinga until the summer of 1944, when the camp was liquidated and its inmates deported to Stutthof in Poland. The inmates of the Krottingen camp worked in a military-clothing factory (the Armeebekleidungsamt Krottingen). There also existed a camp known as Dimitrava near Kretinga. The Hungarian-Jewish sisters Sarah, Tamara and Irina Genzor were deported to the Krottingen camp after spending a month in Auschwitz in June 1944.
28 December 1944 (p. 3):
“Germans Liquidated Twenty-one ‘Jewish Camps’ in Riga District Prior to RetreatIn conclusion to this survey it will suffice to observe that the notion of the deportations to the “East” being a cover for systematic mass murder did not really establish itself until 1943. The allegation that a majority of the deported Jews was murdered in “death camps” would gain credence only following that, in late 1943 and 1944 – although mass murders in Treblinka were reported by the JTA on 25 November 1942, a longer piece on Chełmno appeared in the issue of 2 August 1942 and the claim of 700,000 massacred Polish Jews was dutifully reported on 26 June 1942. Even by 1944, however, there still appeared reports indicating that French, Dutch and Belgian Jews had been deported to camps and ghettos in the Occupied Eastern Territories.
To be continued.
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